Peer pressure can drive employees' weight loss efforts

by Iain Hopkins09 Apr 2013

People who embark on weight loss journeys are often advised to keep it to themselves. However, new research has proved otherwise – enticing employees to get healthy using cash rewards can work if employers add a little peer pressure to the equation.

A study by the Ann Arbor VA Healthcare System and the University of Michigan Health System found that group-based financial incentives led to nearly three times more weight loss than cash awards based on an individual's weight-loss success alone.

Two types of incentive strategies among obese employees at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia were examined. One group was offered $100 monthly on an individual basis should they lose weight, while the other group had five people sharing a common reward of $500 which was to be split among those in the group who met monthly weight loss goals.

“There is broad and growing enthusiasm for rewarding healthy behaviours in the workplace, but there is little evidence on the effects of these strategies,” said lead author Jeffrey Kullgren, a health services researcher in the VA Centre 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.”

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, and funded by the National Institute on Aging (of the National Institutes of Health), the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars programme.


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