Science + Research

Our Approach
The Holly team consists of an academic, scientifically-minded team, who believe in the power of using proven evidence-based approaches to guide and measure impact.

That’s why well designed qualitative and quantitative research approaches are so important to us. Check out our approaches and research projects below.
Bird
Circle

Our Evidence

Holly Health is a leading provider and researcher, in behaviour change and chronic condition management, using scalable digital approaches. Read more about our evidence here.
Healthy Ageing Study Results
Researchers: Dr Daniela Mercado Beivide, Ph.D., Liliana Chow, BSc, Age UK Lewisham and Southwark
31st October 2023
Healthy Ageing Study Results

Funded by the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge, Holly Health and Age UK Lewisham and Southwark partnered to research and co-design the Holly Health service, tailored for healthy ageing. Our 12-week pilot with older adults showed statistically significant improvements across multiple health outcome measures.

Read more
Holly Health Health Outcomes (in a GP setting)
Researchers: Dr Daniela Mercado Beivide, Ph.D., National NHS Primary Care Partners
4th April 2023
Holly Health Health Outcomes (in a GP setting)

Holly Health has partnered with over 100 UK GP practices, with a population coverage of over 500,000 patients. This report illustrates the key outcomes we've seen so far from our primary care partnerships, including statistically significant improvements in physical and mental health outcomes across all assessment categories, after using Holly Health for 8 weeks.

Read more
Holly Health and Long-Term Condition Management
Researcher: Dr Daniela Mercado Beivide, Ph.D.
30th November 2023
Holly Health and Long-Term Condition Management

This research report used restrospective survey methods to explore the impact of using Holly Health to support the self-management of long-term conditions. Highlights include 33% of users reported needing less support from their GP as a result of using Holly Health for 8 weeks.

Read more
Holly Health and Musculoskeletal Health
Researchers: Dr Daniela Mercado Beivide, Ph.D., Liliana Chow, BSc
31st October 2023
Holly Health and Musculoskeletal Health

This report details the outcomes of using Holly Health in a cohort of patients with an MSK condition, after using Holly Health for 8+ weeks. Highlights include significant improvements in physical and mental health outcomes and self-management skills, as well as testimonials of improved pain management.

Read more
Health Outcomes in Long-Term Use of Holly Health
Researcher: Dr Daniela Mercado Beivide, Ph.D.
31st August 2023
Health Outcomes in Long-Term Use of Holly Health

This research report explores the impact of using Holly Health for 5 to 12+ months. Our retrospective survey found that almost 2/3rds of respondents (63%) considered that their physical health has improved, over half (55%) reported their mental health has improved and 37% of users reported needing less GP support, after 5+ months of using Holly Health.

Read more

The Science Behind Holly Health

We're a team of scientists, clinicians and entrepreneurs who understand that emotions, stress, and a busy life make habit change really hard! We bring together our experiences in science, startup and product growth, healthcare integration, and coaching, to keep building our impactful and scalable service.
Some of the core components of the service are:

Mindfulness-based techniques

To pay full attention to the present moment and get in touch with brain and body

Mindfulness interventions can lead to substantial physical and mental health outcomes. Studies show that practising mindfulness has measurable effects on the brain: It helps us better regulate our emotions by strengthening or ‘rational brain’ (also known as the pre-frontal cortex), increases our sense of happiness and wellbeing by decreasing our internal chatter, and increases awareness of our internal bodily signals (called interoceptive awareness).

Mindful eating in particular has been shown to reduce emotional eating, binge eating episodes and eating ‘just because’ (also called external eating), ultimately leading to a better relationship with food.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Aligning goals with values, and learning to observe unhelpful thoughts without fighting them

This evidence-based approach is framed around personal values rather than short-term goals, which has been shown to result in long-term commitment for change.

ACT also increases cognitive flexibility, which helps us ‘detach’ from unhelpful thoughts which typically lead to or contribute to anxiety, self-criticism, over-thinking and other mental health challenges.

The science of self-compassion

To treat yourself with kindness through the ups and downs of life, for better all round wellbeing

Studies show that compassion is associated with increase life-satisfaction, happiness, intrinsic motivation, optimism and social connectedness.
It is also negatively associated with maladaptive qualities such as self-criticism, depression, anxiety, and rumination.

CBT

Identifying patterns in behaviours, thoughts and feelings to instil awareness and develop helpful techniques.

CBT is the gold standard for many mental health challenges and conditions. The idea behind CBT is identifying and challenging thoughts and behaviours, as well as understanding their relationship with emotions. This approach includes helpful tools such as restructuring and meta-cognition for identifying unhelpful thought patterns and developing alternative responses and coping strategies which facilitate behaviour change.

Small habits approach

Small, incremental changes that build confidence, and create and sustain long term health behaviours

Habit loops are formed in the brain through regular repetition of small actions. Evidence from behaviour change theories like the COM-B model and self-determination theory show that feeling capable and empowered to take action leads to long-term behaviour change. That’s why starting small is key to feel motivated to keep going in a way that feels achievable and sustainable.

Core Outcomes

79%
users adopt new, ‘automatic’ habits*
7 to 22%
average health improvements in lower baseline users*
33%
report less need for GP services*
*after 8 weeks

What Holly Health users think...

Quote
The fact that the app is using nudge theory in such a way, coupled with accessible information and practical videos, is what I like about the app. The tone of the messaging is not authoritative, but encouraging; not repetitive, but playful; not boring same-old, but inspirational.
Geoff
User
Quote
The Holly bird is really encouraging and tells you things like “you’re doing great” which I find helps keep my spirits high. The app has also helped me to make a mental note of how I’m feeling on a good day, so that I can come back to those positive emotions.
Beverley
User
Quote
I've really appreciated the gentle nudging and encouraging approach. I’ve learnt to be more kind to myself when untangling old habits and being proud of how far I’ve come. It’s very much worth it.
Mary
User
Quote
Holly Health is a service for anyone who's feeling a bit out of control or they don't have any time to themselves, they're always playing catch up. Small habits that build routines give a sense of being more grounded and in touch with ourselves, less pulled along by outside forces.
Francis
User
Quote
After years of being bogged down in guilt and feelings of self-doubt every time I gained a single pound (and elation every time I lost it again), this considered and sustainable approach to living and eating happily is exactly what I needed.
Quote
The "be kind to yourself " approach is refreshing. It's a release to be free from "the more you can achieve the more successful you are" that's so stressful. As well as lessening stress I seem to be losing weight too. I feel so lucky to be able to access this. 
I’m finding Holly Health way more effective than anything else I've tried because of how small and reasonable the chunks of change are.
Quote
Quote
It's helped me to stop the all or nothing mentality, and I'm finding it easy and even I look forward to my daily activities because they are easily doable as they are shorter than I'd usually try to do.
Quote
I'm managing anxiety better, and severe episodes of anxiety are more rare. I'm getting out of the habit of negative automatic thinking, but it's still work in progress. My exercise levels are much better, and I'm eating better too. 
I genuinely think it has motivated me to make the biggest improvements I’ve ever made in my life. I feel so much more responsible for my own health. I am able to manage my lifestyle in a healthy and sustainable way.
Quote
The "be kind to yourself " approach is refreshing. It's a release to be free from "the more you can achieve the more successful you are" that's so stressful. As well as lessening stress I seem to be losing weight too. I feel so lucky to be able to access this. 
Quote
It's helped me to stop the all or nothing mentality, and I'm finding it easy and even I look forward to my daily activities because they are easily doable as they are shorter than I'd usually try to do.
Quote
I'm managing anxiety better, and severe episodes of anxiety are more rare. I'm getting out of the habit of negative automatic thinking, but it's still work in progress. My exercise levels are much better, and I'm eating better too. 
Quote
After years of being bogged down in guilt and feelings of self-doubt every time I gained a single pound (and elation every time I lost it again), this considered and sustainable approach to living and eating happily is exactly what I needed.
Quote
I’m finding Holly Health way more effective than anything else I've tried because of how small and reasonable the chunks of change are.
Quote
I genuinely think it has motivated me to make the biggest improvements I’ve ever made in my life. I feel so much more responsible for my own health. I am able to manage my lifestyle in a healthy and sustainable way.
Quote
On Android and iOS rated 4.4 in app stores, with over 400 ratings