Challenges in the Management of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): Towards a Compassionate Approach

Sue Shea, Christos Lionis, Chris Kite, Lou Atkinson, Lukasz Lagojda, Surinderjeet S. Chaggar, Ioannis Kyrou, Harpal S. Randeva

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Representing a growing ‘silent epidemic’, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects around 25–30% of the general population. Alarmingly, NAFLD increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, both independently and through its strong associations with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, whilst posing a substantial burden from an economic and health-related quality of life perspective. Moreover, growing evidence links NAFLD to common mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, and stress. In this context, recent clinical and research attention further focuses on potential additional problems faced by patients with NAFLD, such as perceived stigma, lack of awareness regarding the condition, and possible feelings of loneliness and isolation that might emerge from unmet support needs. To date, despite a wealth of literature on NAFLD, management of the condition remains challenging and not straightforward, with most cases in primary care being treated with lifestyle modification on top of any other comorbidity treatment. However, for many patients with NAFLD, weight loss is hard to accomplish and/or sustain (e.g., patients may lack the skills, confidence, and motivation required to adhere to dietary changes, and/or may have problems limiting opportunities for increased physical activity). Therefore, tailored interventions which are manageable from the perspective of the individual patient with NAFLD could glean greater results. Accordingly, although there is a lack of research exploring the potential benefits of person-centered and compassion-based approaches to the management of NAFLD, in the present review, we draw on evidence from methods utilized in the treatment of other chronic conditions in postulating the view that such approaches might prove beneficial in the future management of NAFLD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)434-447
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Early online date25 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/)


This research received no external funding.


  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • obesity
  • stigma
  • mental stress
  • loneliness;
  • compassion;
  • motivational interviewing
  • social prescribing
  • empathy


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