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Though advocated as useful for patients, there is little in the literature regarding the use and effectiveness of bariatric support groups. This study investigated characteristics and experiences of bariatric patients who did and did not attend offered groups. Seventy-eight postoperative laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding patients from a private bariatric clinic completed mailed self-report questionnaires. Almost 60% reported having attended the clinic groups, with most wanting to meet other patients and obtain information rather than access psychological assistance. Participants reported generally positive experiences of attending. Nonattendance was often attributed to practical barriers. Satisfaction with support from others was not related to past or predicted future attendance, but higher psychological distress was related to and predictive of greater intention to attend future groups. Likely future attenders also held more positive beliefs about the groups than those who were unlikely to attend. Further research is required into potential positive and negative consequences of attendance, and characteristics of those who are likely to benefit or be harmed by attending. Interventions addressing stereotypes about support groups may help patients make informed decisions about whether to attend a bariatric support group.
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