What is it about?

For five years following weight loss surgery, we assessed people's awareness of changes to their own health. We found that this awareness is generally poor, as shown by a mismatch between their perception of change over time and their actual change. In addition, overly optimistic perceptions of change were associated with greater weight loss and overly pessimistic perceptions with less weight loss.

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Why is it important?

Health care decisions by both patients and practitioners can be made at least partly based on patient perceptions of health change. For example, is health improving after taking a medication? It is important to recognize that these perceptions may not be accurate because of an inability to correctly remember one's past health. The direction of such bias (optimistic or pessimistic) may also be related to health outcomes.


Years ago I never thought my father (a bariatric surgery researcher) and I (a cognitive psychologist) would collaborate on a research project. But he and his collaborators' large-scale study of health outcomes after weight loss surgery provided a unique opportunity for Todd Williams and I to examine something we have studied in other areas, awareness of changes in ourselves. It was a privilege to work with their world-class research team. We also hope this study helps to illuminate an important factor in health care decision making; perceptions of health changes tend be less accurate than we might think.

Professor of Psychology Michael B Wolfe
Grand Valley State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Health change awareness and its association with weight loss following bariatric surgery., Health Psychology, March 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/hea0001279.
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