Background: Behaviour change interventions are effective in supporting individuals in achieving temporary behaviour change. Behaviour change maintenance, however, is rarely attained. The aim of this review was to identify and synthesise current theoretical explanations for behaviour change maintenance to inform future research and practice.
Methods: Potentially relevant theories were identified through systematic searches of electronic databases (Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO). In addition, an existing database of 80 theories was searched, and 25 theory experts were consulted. Theories were included if they formulated hypotheses about behaviour change maintenance. Included theories were synthesised thematically to ascertain overarching explanations for behaviour change maintenance. Initial theoretical themes were cross-validated.
Findings: One hundred and seventeen behaviour theories were identified, of which 100 met the inclusion criteria. Five overarching, interconnected themes representing theoretical explanations for behaviour change maintenance emerged. Theoretical explanations of behaviour change maintenance focus on the differential nature and role of motives, self-regulation, resources (psychological and physical), habits, and environmental and social influences from initiation to maintenance.
Discussion: There are distinct patterns of theoretical explanations for behaviour change and for behaviour change maintenance. The findings from this review can guide the development and evaluation of interventions promoting maintenance of health behaviours and help in the development of an integrated theory of behaviour change maintenance.