Pilot trial of a group cognitive behavioural therapy program for comorbid depression and obesity.

BMC psychology. 2020;8(1):34
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Plain language summary

Depression and obesity are significant global health concerns. Depression can significantly impact physical health and reduced immune function. The aim of this study was to examine the potential benefits of a novel group psychological intervention program. The study is a preliminary quasi-experimental (single-arm) before-after pilot trial of a newly developed group-based psychological intervention program for people with depression and comorbid obesity. The program consisted of 10 two-hour group sessions held weekly. A total of 24 participants were recruited to the program across two pilot groups. Results indicate that there was a significant reduction in participants’ depression and anxiety scores by program-end. Some evidence also shows improvements in weight-related negative cognitions. Authors conclude that the group therapy program therefore has considerable potential to be effective in helping people enjoy better mental health and improve health outcomes.


BACKGROUND Depression and obesity are significant global health concerns that commonly occur together. An integrated group cognitive behavioural therapy program was therefore developed to simultaneously address comorbid depression and obesity. METHODS Twenty-four participants (63% women, mean age 46 years) who screened positively for depression with a body mass index ≥25 were recruited from a self-referred general population sample. The group therapy program (10 two-hour weekly sessions) was examined in a single-arm, before-after pilot trial, conducted in a behavioural health clinic in Adelaide, Australia. Primary outcomes included survey and assessment-based analyses of depression, anxiety, body image, self-esteem, and weight (kg), assessed at four time-points: baseline, post-intervention, three-months and 12-months post program. Eighteen participants (75%) completed the program and all assessments. RESULTS Significant improvements in depression, anxiety, self-esteem and body shape concern scores, several quality of life domains, eating behaviours and total physical activity (among others) - but not weight - were observed over the course of the trial. CONCLUSIONS Results from this pilot trial suggest that combining interventions for depression and obesity may be useful. Further development of the program, particularly regarding the potential for physical health benefits, and a randomised controlled trial, are warranted. TRIAL REGISTRATION Trial registration: ANZCTR, ACTRN12617001079336, 13 July 2017. Retrospectively registered after date of the first consent (6 July 2017), but before the date of the first intervention session (20 July 2017).

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Neurological ; Immune and inflammation
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Mind and spirit
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Psychological
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : 3
Allocation concealment : Yes
Publication Type : Clinical Trial ; Journal Article