Cash for weight loss can work
Companies looking for a way to motivate their employees to lose weight might consider offering them cold-hard-cash, says a new report.
Study leaders at the University of Texas at Arlington say offering financial incentives is one of the most effective methods companies can use to compel healthier living among their workers. The findings will be published next month in the Journal of Health Economics.
“We examined how effective different weight loss programs are to business,” said Joshua Price, a UT Arlington assistant professor of economics, in a statement. “We discovered the best results for weight loss were through a more regular payment of refundable participation fees. The payments seem to work as a reinforcement for people to continue to lose weight.”
Researchers evaluated four different weight loss wellness programs that were offered for employees at one company.
One option included no financial component; another option asked employees to participate in a free weight loss program and paid them quarterly if they lost weight.
A third option required workers to pay to join the program then refunded their money at the end of the year based on how much weight they lost. The last option was almost the same, but paid out every quarter instead of at the end of the year.
The results showed that participants who chose the programs that required them to put up their own money to participate and then received refunds for losing pounds, experienced the most weight loss.
“With this research, we can identify which types of financial incentives work best. When employees lose weight, they win and the employers win, too,” study leaders said.
The researchers noted that obesity medical care costs average $190.2 billion annually, including $4.3 billion work for work absenteeism.
This isn’t the first time using cash incentives to lose weight has been proven to be effective. Earlier this year, a year-long study done with Mayo Clinic employees, found that offering $20 a month was enough to entice dieters to drop an average of 9 pounds each.
But some physicians question if cash-reward based programs can work long term.
Dr. Jennifer DeBruler, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group, who is also board-certified in obesity, has her doubts.
“The problem stems from where the motivation is coming from,” says Dr. DeBruler. “If there is no internal desire to change your unhealthy ways, then it’s likely once the cash stops, so will your new healthy habits.”
Dr. DeBruler says people who tend to be most successful with quitting bad habits are those who make a personal investment in changing their ways.
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