Healthy minds, healthy bodies: can community weight loss services support better mental health?

A qualitative study to understand how people with depression and similar mental health conditions access, engage with, and experience community-based weight management services.


This project is funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme (PRP), NIHR203867.

What is the problem?

Around two thirds of UK adults are above a healthy weight. This can affect both their physical and mental well-being. It is not unusual for people to experience depression and overweight/obesity at the same time, and people have described how this can make it difficult to make and sustain lifestyle changes. Many people can be supported to lose weight by accessing community-based weight management services. However, we do not know how people living with depression and other common mental health conditions access and experience using these services.

What is the aim of the research?

We want to find out how people who experience depression, anxiety, or other common mental illnesses (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder) access and use publicly funded weight management services. We are especially interested in how people find out about these services, whether they are helpful, and how they can be improved.

How will this be achieved?

We will undertake interviews with people living with overweight/obesity and depression or similar mental health conditions and health professionals involved in providing weight management services. We will talk to people who have used community-based weight management services and people who have not. We want to understand more about how and why people choose to use these services and how they are experienced by people living with mental health conditions such as depression. We also want to go to some weight management sessions to understand more about how services can be improved. We will use robust methods to understand and contrast people’s views and experiences and make recommendations for improvement. These ideas will be discussed in meetings with members of the public before drawing up a plan for how services should look in the future. These proposals will then be presented to local and national policymakers.

Who is leading the research?

Dr Amanda Owen Smith, Senior Lecturer, Bristol Medical School.

For more information or to get involved in this project, please contact

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.