Research suggests that those living with mental health conditions may be more likely to adopt lifestyle behaviours, following a poor diet for instance, which may contribute to a shorter life expectancy of up to 20 years when compared with non-sufferers. These people are seen as being at potentially greater nutritional risk due to the symptoms and impact that mental illness can have, such as self-neglect, anxiety and developing paranoia about food. A link has also been found between poor nutrition and older adults with significant mental health conditions. 

In light of these developments, staff in Oxford Health's Nutrition and Dietetics Department recently secured sizeable funding from Oxford Health Charity to enable them to purchase an extra tool that could be used across the Trust's adult mental health wards in Oxford. This new device, a Tanita Dual Frequency Body Composition Monitor, will provide a key enhancement to the services that staff can offer as these scales will help them to identify their most at-risk patients who can then be supported to make vital lifestyle changes.

Lucy Gardner, Professional Lead Dietitian in Mental Health & Learning Development, explained:

“Whilst ordinary scales are used on the wards, we feel that the body composition scales would enhance the experience for the patients, hopefully improving their quality of life overall.”

Unlike a set of normal scales, this new equipment can run a full body composition analysis (including an assessment of weight, BMI, body fat, muscle mass, water, metabolic rate, and metabolic age) to provide an accurate picture of the user’s health within 15 seconds. Results are then both displayed on-screen as well as printed automatically for the user to retain as a record.


Having received these portable scales in July 2023, staff put them to use straightaway with a weekly patient group at Warneford Hospital – seeing this body monitoring equipment as an ideal means of psychoeducation. Lucy commented:

“The scales give us an opening to discuss the effect of weight/body composition on physical and mental wellbeing. The scales are special in that they will print the individual's body composition readings, so they have a copy to refer to.”

The charity team were thrilled to hear that initial feedback from the patient group has been overwhelmingly positive – here are just a few examples of comments received:

“Knowing about my body composition is much more helpful than just knowing my weight.”         
“I need to make some changes to what I eat.”
“This is really exciting!”
“Having this printout has really made me think.”

And it won’t just be Oxford Health service users who will be able to benefit from these new scales – we understand the Nutrition and Dietetic team have plans to take them to staff wellbeing events too! Lucy continued:

“We will also be using the scales for staff events to offer opportunities for staff around psychoeducation, alongside opportunities for staff to talk about their body composition, how this may affect physical and mental wellbeing and potential steps for change.”

We were particularly pleased to accept Lucy’s thanks, expressed on behalf of the Nutrition and Dietetics team, for Oxford Health Charity’s support with this project. She noted that, without our funding, it would not have been possible for this service-enhancing device to be purchased – a device which will clearly be of considerable benefit to patients and staff alike.

It’s fantastic to know that, through funding these body composition scales, we have helped facilitate opportunities for conversations to be opened with patients and staff, around making supported improvements to their physical and mental wellbeing. 

We look forward to hearing more from Lucy and the team as this project progresses.