Research report: Holly Health impacts pain, mood, and self-management skills in a cohort of MSK patients

October 31, 2023

As the population ages, the prevalence of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions is also on the rise. In the UK, around 17 million people are living with an MSK condition. In fact, over 20% of the population seeks GP support for an MSK-related problem each year. Not only do MSK conditions impact health services and the economy (30 million working days are lost each year because of MSK conditions), but they also have a massive impact on people’s quality of life and mental health.

From our own users, we can see that:

  • Over the last 12 months, 23% of Holly Health users reported an MSK-related condition
  • and 48% of those who reported an MSK condition also reported a mental health condition

The good news is that lifestyle behaviours like consistent physical activity, can prevent and reduce the symptom severity of most MSK conditions, and that is exactly what Holly Health knows how to do best: it helps people to create and maintain health-promoting behaviours that impact physical and mental health.

And because we love data, and we are on a permanent quest to assess the impact of Holly Health across the health and wellbeing spectrum, we looked into the health outcomes of those Holly Health users who reported having an MSK condition when joining Holly Health. This is what we found:

Significant improvements across physical and mental health outcomes, and self-management skills

After 8 weeks of using Holly Health, we saw statistically significant improvements in self-reported exercise, energy levels, self-confidence, long-term mindset and self-management skills. Specifically, users who started off with low to medium scores at baseline experienced:

  • A 20% increase in exercise**
  • 15% more self-confidence**
  • 11% more energy**
  • A 16% increase in long-term mindset**
  • (ability to focus on long-term benefits vs. short-term results)
  • 17% increase in self-management skills**
  • (ability to manage own health and wellbeing)


Related to an increase in self-management skills, 30% of users reported needing less GP support after engaging with Holly Health for as little as 8 weeks.

Significant improvements in personal wellbeing

Within the same user cohort, we also observed statistically significant changes in personal wellbeing as measured by the ONS-4 scale. Those with low to medium scores at baseline experienced:

  • An increase in overall life satisfaction of 24% **
  • A 24% increase in overall feelings that life is worthwhile **
  • A 22% increase in happiness (’happy yesterday’ item)**
  • An 18% reduction in anxiety (‘anxious yesterday’ item)**


Numbers are amazing, but qualitative data can really help to understand the real impact of an intervention in people’s day-to-day lives. This is why we also gathered some user testimonials that specifically call out how Holly Health’s holistic approach has helped them better manage their MSK condition.

For example, some users report having less pain as a consequence of engaging with Holly Health’s coaching:

"It [Holly Health] helped me instigate more regular walking in the day and a stretching routine early in the morning…the stretching has helped a lot to improve back pain”
“My pain (spine including neck and lower back) and right hip have benefited from more regular exercise and where I was taking naproxen daily, I only need it occasionally”
“I feel more happier, less stressed. My back stopped hurting and I have more energy”
“Pain from my piriformis syndrome is more manageable”

In addition to better pain self-management, user testimonials also show that Holly Health helped them improve their mood and self-confidence in maintaining their newly created health habits:

“Starting to feel a lot fitter and better about my myself”
“I think I am beginning the start of a new regime and a better, healthier me.”
“It's easy to use, and the habits that were suggested were ones I felt I could do, so it wasn't overwhelming or daunting. And even a little bit goes a long way every day.”
"There are so many different things you can locate in one place, you know, it's not just all about, say movement - it's about different aspects of health."

We know that musculoskeletal conditions are the biggest contributor to day-to-day morbidity. That’s why at Holly Health, we take multi-mobility seriously. Rather than focusing on a single condition, we support each person as a whole with holistic health coaching across both mental and physical health.

Holly Health is pleased to deliver care through Primary Care Networks (and integrated care systems), public health services and private providers - with over 150 NHS partners so far. We support regional and national movements to deliver more preventive support to more patients, before their symptoms worsen, through scalable personalised care. If you’d like to talk to a member of the team, please contact [email protected].