Is improving mental health possible in digital weight management?

Mental health problems are more likely to occur with higher levels of obesity, and people with obesity are twice as likely to be depressed. This can affect their motivation and engagement with weight loss programmes, making it important to consider the whole person and not just the outcome of weight loss.

At Oviva, we understand the importance of addressing both behaviour change and mental health in our programmes for those living with obesity. By considering multiple perspectives and building behaviour change into everything we do, we strive to maximise engagement and motivation for our patients.

Last year we published a study demonstrating that by using a patient-centred approach which takes into consideration behavioural change science, ease of access, appropriate psyche and medicines management support, people with severe depression and anxiety can achieve similar weight loss outcomes as those without these conditions. We know that there appears to be a bi-directional link between depression and obesity (Luppino et al., 2010), and we were interested in understanding further how digital innovation can support people living with obesity from a psychological perspective.

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Fifty-four patients living with complex obesity in England and Scotland were evaluated after being referred onto Oviva’s digital Tier 3 Weight Management programme, by their GP or local NHS provider.

Participants were asked to complete the self-reported Patient Health Questionnaire 9 (PHQ-9), a well-validated and widely used measure of depression. The questionnaire was completed at the beginning, and at 3 and 6 months of Oviva’s digital Tier 3 Weight Management programme, to understand specifically, the changes in depression symptoms over time during this programme. PHQ-9 scores of 10 or above are classed as a clinical case for depressive symptoms.


Participants reported a decrease in their average PHQ-9 score as they progressed through Oviva’s digital Tier 3 Weight Management programme, with a huge 48% of participants moving to a less severe depression category after 6 months.


The findings demonstrate the broader, holistic benefit Oviva’s programmes can have for participants. Oviva’s delivery model combines psychological intervention and behaviour change support with app technology. This remote blended-care approach is likely to have played a fundamental role in reducing depression symptoms in people with complex obesity, alongside significant reductions in their BMI and providing them with the tools to make sustainable changes to their diet and lifestyle.

It is encouraging for remote digital interventions, as the ease of access to care and convenience can increase uptake and engagement from traditionally under-represented groups, removing the barriers to access thereby tackling health inequalities. In addition, the positive holistic effects for participants identified here suggest that weight management services should target improvements in depression alongside other outcomes.

Read the paper

Our peer reviewed evaluation shows significant improvements in the depression scores of people living with complex obesity when taking part in our specialist digital programmes.

“This shows how people living with obesity can benefit from the holistic care provided by digital weight management programmes. Digital delivery will help cut the backlog in our NHS and make care more accessible for working people, those living in remote areas, and from ethnic minority communities.”

Lucy Jones, Chief Clinical Officer at NHS partner Oviva

About Oviva Way to Wellness

Oviva Way to Wellness is a 12 month Tier 3 weight management programme that puts people in control of their health by offering personalised support from a team of healthcare professionals. As a 100% remote service, participants can take part in the programme from the comfort of their own home and receive support at a time that suits them.

The programme is digitally enabled and combines health coach support with educational resources available via the app and web platform. Participants also have access to Oviva’s NHS approved app where they can track their progress, food, mood and activity and communicate with their coach.

Find out more

Meet Ashlee, a dedicated Biomedical Scientist and loving mum to her two children. Ashlee embarked on Oviva’s Tier 3 Way to Wellness programme, where she was determined to make positive changes to her overall health and well-being.

Weight management

Ashlee’s Story