Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis investigating the components and effectiveness of self-help weight-loss interventions and their applicability to less-advantaged populations. We searched (November 2013) for randomized controlled trials comparing self-help interventions with each other or with minimal controls in overweight and obese adults, with 6 months or longer follow-up. We calculated mean difference between intervention and control for 6- and 12-month weight change. Twenty-three studies met the inclusion criteria (9632 participants; 39 intervention arms). Intervention participants lost significantly more weight than controls at 6 months (mean difference -1.85 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI]=-2.86, -0.83; 7 studies). No significant effect was detected at 12 months but results were sensitive to the inclusion of 1 study at high risk of bias. Interactive programs appeared more effective than standard ones at 6 months (mean difference -0.94 kg; 95% CI=-1.50, -0.38). Evidence is insufficient to reach conclusions on effectiveness in socioeconomically disadvantaged people, but suggests self-help interventions may be less effective in this group.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Public Health

Publication Date





e43 - e57


Adult, Consumer Health Information, Databases, Bibliographic, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obesity, Program Evaluation, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Self Care, Self-Help Groups, Socioeconomic Factors, Weight Loss, Weight Reduction Programs