Meta-synthesis of health behavior change meta-analyses

Am J Public Health. 2010 Nov;100(11):2193-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.155200. Epub 2010 Feb 18.


Objectives: We integrated and compared meta-analytic findings across diverse behavioral interventions to characterize how well they have achieved change in health behavior.

Methods: Outcomes from 62 meta-analyses of interventions for change in health behavior were quantitatively synthesized, including 1011 primary-level investigations with 599,559 participants. Content coding suggested 6 behavioral domains: eating and physical activity, sexual behavior, addictive behaviors, stress management, female-specific screening and intervention behaviors, and behaviors involving use of health services.

Results: Behavior change interventions were efficacious (mean effect sizes = 0.08-0.45). Behavior change was more evident in more recent meta-analyses; those that sampled older interventions and literatures or sampled more published articles; those that included studies that relied on self-report, used briefer interventions, or sampled fewer, older, or female participants; and in some domains (e.g., stress management) more than others (e.g., sexual behaviors).

Conclusions: Interventions improved health-related behaviors; however, efficacy varied as a function of participant and intervention characteristics. This meta-synthesis provides information about the efficacy of behavioral change interventions across health domains and populations; this knowledge can inform the design and development of public health interventions and future meta-analyses of these studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Promotion* / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Program Evaluation / standards
  • Program Evaluation / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Young Adult