Effect of Mobile Health on Obese Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Healthc Inform Res. 2019 Jan;25(1):12-26. doi: 10.4258/hir.2019.25.1.12. Epub 2019 Jan 31.


Objectives: This study was conducted to examine the effects of mobile health (mHealth), using mobile phones as an intervention for weight loss in obese adults.

Methods: An electronic search was carried out using multiple databases. A meta-analysis of selected studies was performed. The effects of mHealth were analyzed using changes in body weight and body mass index (BMI).

Results: We identified 20 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving 2,318 participants who fit our inclusion criteria. The meta-analysis showed that body weight was reduced with a weighted mean difference (WMD) of -2.35 kg (95% confidence interval [CI], -2.84 to -1.87). An examination of the impact of duration of intervention showed that weight loss was greater after 6 months of mHealth (WMD = -2.66 kg) than between three and four months (WMD = -2.25 kg); it was maintained for up to 9 months (WMD = -2.62 kg). At 12 months, weight loss was reduced to a WMD of -1.23 kg. BMI decreased with a WMD of -0.77 kg/m2 (95% CI, -1.01 to -0.52). BMI changes were not statistically significant at 3 months (WMD = -1.10 kg/m2), but they were statistically significant at 6 months (WMD = -0.67 kg/m2).

Conclusions: The use of mHealth for obese adults showed a modest short-term effect on body weight and BMI. Although the weight loss associated with mHealth did not meet the recommendation of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network, which considers a reduction of approximately 5 to 10 kg of the initial body weight as a successful intervention. Well-designed RCTs are needed to reveal the effects of mHealth interventions.

Keywords: Adult; Cell Phone; Meta-analysis; Mobile Applications; Obesity.