Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Cash for weight loss? Works better when employees compete for pots of money

Date:
April 1, 2013
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
Do cash rewards for healthier habits work? Maybe, says a new study, if you add on one more condition -- peer pressure. A growing number of companies are offering employees an opportunity to boost earning power at work via cash incentives to stay healthy. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers will soon be able to offer even larger financial incentives to prod healthy lifestyle behaviors among their workforce, such as quitting smoking and losing weight. But people who are offered money for weight loss may be much more successful when awards are based on a group's performance -- rather than just their own -- according to the new research.

Do cash rewards for healthier habits work? Maybe, says a new study, if you add on one more condition -- peer pressure.

Related Articles


A growing number of companies are offering employees an opportunity to boost earning power at work via cash incentives to stay healthy. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers will soon be able to offer even larger financial incentives to prod healthy lifestyle behaviors among their workforce, such as quitting smoking and losing weight.

But people who are offered money for weight loss may be much more successful when awards are based on a group's performance -- rather than just their own -- according to a study led by the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System.

Group-based financial incentives led to nearly three times more weight loss than cash awards based on an individual's weight loss success alone, according to the findings that appear in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"There is broad and growing enthusiasm for rewarding healthy behaviors in the workplace, but there is little evidence on the effects of these strategies," says lead author Jeffrey T. Kullgren, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., health services researcher in the VA Center for Clinical Management Research and the division of general medicine in the U-M Medical School. "We anticipate more employers to offer these awards in an effort to help control health care costs while also improving the health of employees.

"We found that these incentives were substantially more powerful when delivered in groups, which has important implications for both policymakers and the employers who are considering offering them."

The study examined two types of incentive strategies among employees who were obese at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. In the first group, individuals were offered $100 each month they met or exceeded weight loss goals. In the second group, individuals were placed into groups of five people in which $500 was split among the participants who met or exceeded monthly weight loss goals -- upping competition by allowing some to earn more than $100 if other members didn't meet goals.

After each monthly weigh in, an automated message notified participants of their earnings -- or if they failed to meet their target, what they would have earned had they been successful.

After six months, the group approach overwhelmingly beat out the singles when it came to enticing people to shed pounds.

"Despite the health and economic consequences of obesity, the problem isn't getting any better, and there is great interest in identifying new approaches to combating this major health issue in our country," says Kullgren, also a researcher for the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

"Approaches such as 'The Biggest Loser' have received popular attention as ways to harness group dynamics to encourage weight loss, but the winner-take-all nature could be discouraging for everyone but the most successful person. We need more data to compare how different group-based approaches stack up against each other."

Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act expands employers' ability to reward employees who meet health status goals by participating in wellness programs. Rewards may include premium discounts or rebates, lower cost-sharing requirements, the absence of a surcharge, or extra benefits related to employer-sponsored health coverage.

Additional Authors: Andrea B. Troxel, Sc.D.; George Loewenstein, Ph.D.; David A. Asch, M.D., M.B.A.; Laurie A. Norton, M.A.; Lisa Wesby, M.S.; Yuanyuan Tao, M.S.; Jingsan Zhu, M.S., M.B.A.; and Kevin G. Volpp, M.D., Ph.D.

Disclosure: None

Funding: National Institute of Aging, of the National Institutes of Health (Grant RC2103282621). Support was also provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Jeffrey T. Kullgren, Andrea B. Troxel, George Loewenstein, David A. Asch, Laurie A. Norton, Lisa Wesby, Yuanyuan Tao, Jingsan Zhu, Kevin G. Volpp. Individual- Versus Group-Based Financial Incentives for Weight LossA Randomized, Controlled Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2013; 158 (7): 505-514 [link]

Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "Cash for weight loss? Works better when employees compete for pots of money." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130401181313.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2013, April 1). Cash for weight loss? Works better when employees compete for pots of money. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130401181313.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "Cash for weight loss? Works better when employees compete for pots of money." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130401181313.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Rewarding Groups for Losing Weight More Effective Than Rewarding Individuals

Apr. 1, 2013 A multi-institution study has found that tying financial incentives to group weight loss led to significantly greater weight loss than cash awards based on an individual's success in losing ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins