Perceived social support before and after bariatric surgery: association with depression, problematic eating behaviors, and weight outcomes

  • Eva M. ConceiçãoEmail author
  • Marta Fernandes
  • Marta de Lourdes
  • Ana Pinto-Bastos
  • Ana R. Vaz
  • Sofia Ramalho
Original Article



Engaging in a healthy lifestyle after bariatric surgery is essential to optimize and sustain weight loss in the long term. There is promising evidence that social support of patients who undergo bariatric surgery plays an important role in promoting a better quality of life and adherence to the required behavioral changes and medical appointments. This study sought to investigate: (a) if post-operative patients experience different levels of perceived social support compared to pre-operative patients; (b) correlations between perceived social support, depression, disordered eating, and weight outcomes; (c) if social support is a moderator between psychological distress, and disordered eating behavior and weight outcomes.


A group of 65 patients assessed pre-surgery and another group of 65 patients assessed post-surgery (M = 26.12; SD 7.97 months since surgery) responded to a set of self-report measures assessing social support, eating disorder psychopathology, disordered eating, and depression.


Greater social support was associated with lower depression, emotional eating, weight and shape concerns, and greater weight loss in pre- and post-surgery groups. Social support was found to be a moderator between different psychological/weight variables but only for the post-surgery group: the relation between depression and eating disorder psychopathology or weight loss was significant for patients scoring medium to high level is social support; the relation between grazing and weight regain was significant for patients scoring medium to low levels of social support.


The associations found between perceived social support and depression, disordered eating and weight outcomes highlight the importance of considering and working with the social support network of patients undergoing bariatric surgery to optimize treatment outcomes.

Level of Evidence  Level III: case-control study.


Bariatric surgery Social support Depression Grazing Weight and shape concern 



The authors wish to acknowledge Dr. Isabel Brandão and the AMTCO group (Avaliação Multidisciplinar do Tratamento Cirúrgico da Obesidade) at the Hospital of São João, Porto, for facilitating access to the patients and conducting the multidisciplinary treatment as usual of the participants of this study.


This study was partially conducted at Psychology Research Centre (PSI/01662), University of Minho, and supported by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education through national funds, and co-financed by FEDER through COMPETE2020 under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007653), by the following grants to Eva Conceição (IF/01219/2014 and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-028209), and doctoral scholarship to Ana Pinto-Bastos (SFRH/BD/104159/2014) and to Sofia Ramalho (SFRH/BD/104182/2014), and post-doctoral grant to Ana R. Vaz (SFRH/BPD/94490/2013). The funding body had no role in the design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; the writing of the manuscript; or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal

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