Background

Latinx groups are characterized by substantial disparities in obesity and associated comorbidities and often experience ethnic/racial discrimination. Relevant studies with Latinx patients seeking bariatric surgery are scarce. This study examined the relationships between ethnic/racial discrimination and body mass index (BMI), psychosocial functioning, and attendance at doctors’ appointments among Latinx adults seeking bariatric surgery. Participants were 260 adults (36.5% primarily Spanish-speaking) seeking bariatric surgery who identified as Latinx/Hispanic. Mean (SD) age and BMI were 34.9 (10.7) years and 43.6 (6.7) kg/m2, respectively. Participants completed a battery of established self-report measures (in preferred language) on experiences of and responses to ethnic/racial discrimination, mental and physical functioning, depression, loss-of-control (LOC) eating, and likelihood of attending doctors’ appointments. Ethnic/racial discrimination was associated significantly with poorer mental functioning, higher depression levels, greater severity of LOC eating, and less likelihood of attending scheduled doctors’ appointments, but not with BMI or physical functioning. A more active response to discrimination was associated significantly with better mental functioning, lower depression levels, and less severity of LOC eating, but not with BMI, physical functioning, or attendance at doctors’ appointments. Among Latinx adults seeking bariatric surgery, ethnic/racial discrimination is associated with broad levels of psychosocial impairment and greater likelihood of missed doctors’ appointments. Active responses to perceived unfair treatment may serve as a buffer against discriminatory experiences. Bariatric teams should be aware of the negative sequalae associated with ethnic/racial discrimination, be prepared to address clinical needs, and work to structurally eliminate the potential for such experiences in their settings.