A Qualitative Examination of Increased Alcohol Use after Bariatric Surgery among Racially/Ethnically Diverse Young Adults

Christine E. Spadola, Eric F. Wagner, Leah M. Varga, Jennifer L. Syvertsen, Nestor F. De La Cruz Munoz, Sarah E. Messiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction: Mounting evidence suggests that bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery (WLS), patients might be vulnerable to developing post-operative alcohol use problems. While the majority of published research offers information concerning the prevalence of problematic alcohol use post-WLS, the literature lacks comprehensive, qualitative explorations examining why alcohol misuse might emerge after WLS. Such data-driven hypotheses are needed to effectively target this emerging concern. Additionally, young adults and racial/ethnic minorities are both increasingly undergoing WLS and are at heightened risk for problems related to alcohol use. To date, these groups have been under-represented in study samples. Methods: To address these important gaps in the literature, racially/ethnically diverse, young adult WLS patients who indicated a post-WLS increase in alcohol use (n = 12) participated in an individual, semi-structured qualitative interview. Data were analyzed through two coding cycles; an external audit of the emerging themes was also conducted to further ensure the trustworthiness of the data. Results: Interviews revealed four major themes prompting an increase in alcohol use after WLS: (1) increased sensitivity to alcohol intoxication, (2) utilizing alcohol as a replacement self-soothing mechanism for food, (3) increase in socialization, and (4) utilizing alcohol as a coping mechanism. Conclusions: By understanding the drivers of increases in alcohol use after WLS, precision-targeted pre- and post-surgical counseling interventions can be developed to address this emerging concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1492-1497
Number of pages6
JournalObesity Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Alcohol
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Qualitative
  • RYGB
  • Substance use
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Young adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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