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Behavioural weight management programmes (BWMPs) lead to weight loss but subsequent weight regain may harm mental health outcomes. We searched for randomised trials of BWMPs in adults with overweight/obesity with follow-up ≥12 months from baseline that measured weight change both at and after programme-end. We included only studies reporting mental health at or after programme-end. We meta-analysed changes in various mental health outcomes using a random-effects model by nature of the comparator group and by time since programme end. Subgroup analysis explored heterogeneity. We used mixed models and meta-regression to analyse the association between change in weight and change in depression and/or anxiety over time, with higher scores indicating greater depression and/or anxiety. We included 47 studies. When comparing BWMPs (diet and/or exercise) to control, most estimates included the possibility of no difference, but pooled estimates for psychological wellbeing, self-esteem and mental-health composite scores at programme-end, anxiety at 1-6 months, and depression at 7-12 months after programme-end suggested improvements in intervention arms relative to control, with 95% CIs excluding no difference. Pooled estimates found no evidence that BWMPs harmed mental health at programme end or beyond. Mental health composite scores at programme-end favoured diet and exercise interventions over diet alone, with 95% CIs excluding no difference. All other measures and timepoints included the possibility of no difference or could not be meta-analysed due to high heterogeneity or a paucity of data. Mixed models and meta-regression of the association between change in depression and/or anxiety scores over time, and change in weight, were inconclusive. Despite weight regain after BWMPs, our meta-analyses found no evidence of mental health harm and some evidence that BWMPs may improve some dimensions of mental health at and after programme-end.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Obes

Publication Date



mental health, meta-analysis, obesity, systematic review, weight