Paying People to Lose Weight

From Science World Report:

The participants were told to achieve the goal of losing 4 pounds per month up to a predetermined goal weight. The researchers kept track of their body weight every month for almost one year. The researchers told the participants in the incentive groups that they would receive $20 per month if they achieved the goal. And those who failed to achieve the goal would need to pay $20 each month that gets into the bonus pool. Participants in both incentive groups who finished the study were entitled to win the pool by lottery.

The researchers noticed that 62 percent of the participants in the incentive group achieved the goal, while just 26 percent from the non-incentive group hit the target. The mean weight loss of participants from the incentive group was 9.08 pounds and the mean weight loss for the non incentive group was 2.34 pounds.

“The take-home message is that sustained weight loss can be achieved by financial incentives,” lead author Steven Driver, M.D., an internal medicine resident at Mayo Clinic, said in a press statement. “The financial incentives can improve results, and improve compliance and adherence.”


Charles Barkley already proved this.

Justin Bassett

I'd be interested to see how this plays out with four groups:

1) Control group asked to lose the weight and not offered money

2) Group asked to lose the weight and offered $20 per month if they hit the goals

3) Group asked to lose the weight and told they have to pay $20 per month if they don't hit the goal

4) Group asked to lose the weight and offered $10 per month if they hit the goal and told they have to pay $10 per month if they don't hit the goal.

It would be better at teasing out whether it was really "paying people to lose weight" or if it was loss aversion

Josh Gonzales

Justin, that is a brilliant idea. In your experimental set up I believe the loss aversion group would give better results than the incentive group, and that there would be some sort of interaction when both were used.

Still an interesting read!


Haha. Mark my words it won't belong until the government makes tax payers fund weight loss campaigns.

Whatever happened to losing weight with the incentive of not getting heart disease?


Be long*

Darn auto-correct ;-)


I'd be more interested to know how both groups' weights developed after the experiment, i.e. did the incentive have a sustainable effect?


I think this worked primarily because they also had to pay if they didn't lose, I agree with the previous commenters who say that this conclusion can't be made without considering what would happen if they did not have negative reprecussions, and if the weight loss was sustained after the study

Veer Gidwaney

Great insight. At Maxwell Health, we've definitely seen that financial incentives help individuals make healthier decisions. We pair health insurance with wellness services that includes a personal fitness device, fitness coaching, a mobile app, and a program that rewards members for healthy living with gift cards from Amazon, iTunes, Starbucks, and others.


If you think about it, weight loss itself should already have enough financial and physical incentive. If someone were to lose weight consistently, say 4 pounds per month, then their lifestyle is getting noticeably healthier. For people with a healthier lifestyle, they will be spending less of their money to fix health problems they come across from being unhealthy or obese. Some of these costs may include medications and other medical materials. As for the physical incentives, being healthy makes one feel better and achieve more physical tasks. So I think "paying people to lose weight" is not necessarily a good idea, but rather make people aware of the costs of being overweight and unhealthy.

demetre elison

Thanks, A very useful information.