Prevalence of personal weight control attempts in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Obes Rev. 2017 Jan;18(1):32-50. doi: 10.1111/obr.12466. Epub 2016 Sep 21.


The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to estimate the prevalence of personal weight control attempts (weight loss and/or maintenance) worldwide and to identify correlates, personal strategies used and the underlying motives. We included epidemiological/observational studies of adults (≥18 years) reporting prevalence of weight control attempts in the past-year. Seventy-two studies (n = 1,184,942) met eligibility criteria. Results from high quality studies showed that 42% of adults from general populations and 44% of adults from ethnic-minority populations reported trying to lose weight, and 23% of adults from general populations reported trying to maintain weight annually. In general population studies, higher prevalence of weight loss attempts was observed in the decade of 2000-2009 (48.2%), in Europe/Central Asia (61.3%) and in overweight/obese individuals and in women (p < 0.01). Of the 37 strategies (grouped in 10 domains of the Oxford Food and Activity Behaviours Taxonomy) and 12 motives reported for trying to control weight, exercising and dieting (within the energy compensation and restraint domains, respectively) and wellbeing and long-term health were the most prevalent. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic review to investigate weight control attempts worldwide. Key strategies and motives were identified which have implications for future public health initiatives on weight control.

Keywords: Maintenance; motives; strategies; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asia
  • Body Weight Maintenance
  • Body Weight*
  • Diet
  • Ethnicity
  • Europe
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Weight Loss