financial incentives motivate weight loss


  • Obesity is a chronic disease that affects more and more French people.
  • Many health problems are triggered by obesity.
  • Obese people are more likely to lose weight when promised a large sum of money, according to a new study.

Can the prospect of a decent amount of money help obese people shed extra pounds? Apparently so, according to a new study published in PIT.

“This research is based on the behavioral economic theory that people are more motivated by the prospect of losing money than by the prospect of making it,” explains study director Pat Hoddinott. “However, not everyone can afford to lose their own money, which is why we designed the Game of Stones trial game, which uses a subsidy incentive. Basically, the money is placed in a bank account during the experiment, which allows low-income men to participate”. continues.

His research included a sample of 585 men from Belfast, Bristol and Glasgow with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30. The participants were divided into three groups:
– The members of the first started dietary rebalancing without any outside help.
– Members of the second followed the same procedure knowing that they would be paid $490 if they lost weight.
– Members of a third group also engaged in a similar process, benefiting from a financial incentive and regular encouraging text messages.

Obesity: money and encouraging text messages to help you lose weight

The results showed that a combination of financial incentives and encouraging messages proved to be the most effective.

“In this randomized trial, sending encouraging text messages combined with a financial incentive resulted in 5% weight loss at 12 months, compared with 3% weight loss for texting alone and 1% for the control group.” write the authors their final report.

However, the researchers cite several limitations of their work, including the fact that they used BMI as a measure of obesity, which is now a very controversial measure. It also remains to be seen how to translate financial incentives into real life, which could be very costly for health systems.

Obesity: what are the associated health problems?

Today, 17% of French people are obese, including 6% of young people between the ages of 8 and 17. Severe obesity has even practically doubled in ten years, from 1.1% of our population in 2009 to 2% in 2020.

“The health risks posed by overweight and obesity are increasingly documented and better and better known,” explains the WHO on its website.

“In 2019, a BMI above the optimal value was estimated to be the cause of 5 million deaths due to non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, cancer, neurological disorders, respiratory pathologies, chronic and digestive problems,” terminate the institution.

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