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Patient experiences of a bariatric group programme for managing obesity: A qualitative interview study


People with obesity experience a range of physical and psychological ill-health outcomes. This study examined patients’ experiences of a group-based programme for the management of morbid obesity delivered within the UK National Health Service. The focus of the study was on the emerging dynamic of the group and patients’ perceptions of its impact on health outcomes.

A qualitative interview study was conducted and involved patients recruited from a Tier 3 bariatric service in South West England. Verbatim transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.

Twenty patients (12 females) with a BMI = 35 kg/m2 participated in a semi-structured one-to-one interview. Participants had been registered with the bariatric service for at least 6 months. None of the participants had had bariatric surgery.

Most participants felt that they had benefited from participating in the group programme and talked about the group as a resource for lifestyle change. Participants’ narratives centred on the emergence of a sense of self based upon their participation in the group: establishing psychological connections to other patients, or shared social identity, was regarded as a key mechanism through which the programme's educational material was accessed, and underpinned the experience of social support within the group. Through interaction with other patients, involving the sharing of personal experiences and challenges, participants came to experience their weight ‘problem’ through a collective lens that they felt empowered them to initiate and sustain individual lifestyle change.

Bariatric care groups have the potential to support lifestyle change and weight loss and may help address the psychological needs of patients. Nurturing a sense of shared social identity amongst patients with morbid obesity should be a core aim of the care pathway and may provide the foundation for successful translation of dietetic content in group programmes.


(2016). Patient experiences of a bariatric group programme for managing obesity: A qualitative interview study. British Journal of Health Psychology, 77-93.

Acceptance Date Oct 19, 2016
Publication Date Nov 17, 2016
Journal British Journal of Health Psychology
Print ISSN 1359-107X
Publisher Wiley
Pages 77-93
Publisher URL


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