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Associations of Social Desirability on Psychological Assessment Outcomes for Surgical Weight Loss Patients


Literature regarding mental health and quality of life (QOL) in bariatric patients has reported high occurrence of psychological disturbance and suggested that patients may provide socially desirable responses during pre-surgical assessments in order to minimize the apparent presence of psychological disturbance. We sought to evaluate the associations between socially desirable responding and clinical outcomes of significance and to compare self-reported psychopathology with clinically evaluated diagnoses. Data were retrospectively analyzed for patients undergoing bariatric surgery at one academic medical center. Cross-sectional self-report measures were given to patients prior to surgery. Measures assessed psychopathology, disordered eating, quality of life, and social desirability. Statistical methods included descriptive statistics, correlations and building of univariate linear regression models. Patient psychopathology, disordered eating, and QOL self-report scores were all significantly related to social desirability. Rates of psychopathology were underreported using self-report measures when compared to clinical evaluations by a licensed psychologist. Socially desirable responding may have a significant effect on preoperative assessment of psychopathology and disordered eating of patients preparing for surgical weight loss.

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The authors would like to thank Shouhao Zhou, PhD and Fan He, MS for their statistical consulting.


Data collection for this research was supported by the Brad Hollinger Eating Disorders Research Endowment at Penn State Health/Penn State College of Medicine Research Grant 2019–2020.

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Correspondence to Melissa Butt.

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Melissa Butt, Allison Wagner and Andrea Rigby have no relevant conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

The institutional review board (IRB) at Penn State Health/Penn State College of Medicine approved the use of all measures as part of standard of care within the surgical weight loss preoperative program. Analysis of clinical assessments and evaluations that were retrospectively analyzed was also reviewed and approved by the Penn State Health IRB. Informed consent was waived for data abstracted from the medical record and consent was implied for those who completed the evaluations.

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Butt, M., Wagner, A. & Rigby, A. Associations of Social Desirability on Psychological Assessment Outcomes for Surgical Weight Loss Patients. J Clin Psychol Med Settings 28, 384–393 (2021).

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