Using digital technology to promote physical health in mental healthcare: A sequential mixed-methods study of clinicians' views

C Sawyer, L Hassan, J Sainsbury, R Carney, S Bucci, Harriet Burgess, K Lovell, J Torous, J Firth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent years have seen innovation in ‘mHealth’ tools and health apps for the management/promotion of physical health and fitness across the general population. However, there is limited research on how this could be applied to mental healthcare. Therefore, we examined mental healthcare professionals' current uses and perceived roles of digital lifestyle interventions for promoting healthy lifestyles, physical health and fitness in youth mental healthcare.

A sequential, mixed-methods design was used, consisting of a quantitative online survey, followed by qualitative in-depth interviews.

A total of 127 mental healthcare professionals participated in the online survey. Participants had limited mHealth experience, and the majority agreed that further training would be beneficial. Thirteen mental healthcare professionals were interviewed. Five themes were generated (i) digital technology's ability to enhance the physical healthcare; (ii) Conditions for the acceptability of apps; (iii) Limitations on staff capability and time; (iv) Motivation as the principal barrier; and (v) Practicalities around receiving lifestyle data. Systematic integration of data produced novel insights around: (i) staff involvement and needs; (ii) ideal focus and content of digital lifestyle interventions; and (iii) barriers towards implementation (including mental healthcare professionals own limited experience using digital lifestyle interventions, which aligned with the appeal of formal training).

Overall, digital lifestyle interventions were positively received by mental healthcare professionals, particularly for health behaviour-tracking and mHealth support for exercise and nutrition. Practical suggestions for facilitating their uptake/implementation to improve availability of physical health interventions in mental healthcare are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140 - 152
Number of pages13
JournalEarly Intervention in Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024


  • attitudes
  • behaviour change
  • digital health
  • lifestyle intervention
  • mobile health
  • qualitative


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