The purpose of this report was to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis of the studies examining the impact of an elevated body mass index (BMI) on mortality risk in elderly (> or =65 years) men and women. A variance-based method of meta-analysis was used to summarize the relationships from available studies. The summary relative risk of all-cause mortality from the 26 analyses that included a risk estimate for a BMI within the overweight range was 1.00 (95% confidence intervals, 0.97-1.03). The summary relative risk of all-cause mortality for the 28 analyses that included a risk estimate for a BMI within the obese range was 1.10 (1.06-1.13). These calculations indicate that a BMI in the overweight range is not associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality in the elderly, while a BMI in the moderately obese range is only associated with a modest increase in mortality risk.