Group incentives promote employee weight loss

Group incentives promote employee weight loss

Image: PD/CDC

1. Obese employees randomized to group incentives lost more weight over a six-month period than those randomized to individual incentives or no incentives. 

2. Three months after the intervention ended, group-incentive participants maintained greater weight loss than no incentive participants.   

Study Rundown: During the six-month intervention, obese employees randomized to a group-incentivized weight loss program lost more weight than those offered individual incentives or no incentives and maintained a greater weight loss than those randomized to no incentives even three months after the intervention ended. This study’s overall generalizability may be limited because of a heavily female (89%), white (63%), and educated (92% attended at least some college) sample that was drawn from a single employer. Strengths of this investigation included withholding identities of the group-incentive participants from one another to minimize within-group behavior modification and adjusting monthly weight-loss goals to maximize participant retention. Follow-up studies in other populations and with longer-term follow-up would help contextualize intervention effectiveness.

Click to read the study in Annals of Internal Medicine

Click to read an accompanying editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine

In Depth: This [randomized controlled] trial assessed the effect of workplace-based, financially incentivized weight loss interventions on 105 obese (body mass index (BMI): 30-40) adult hospital employees. Participants were randomized by sex, age, and BMI into one of three groups (n=35 for each): no incentives (control group), individual incentives ($100 awarded if participants met monthly weight-loss goals), and group incentives ($500 split monthly between a 5-person subgroup if they met monthly weight-loss goals). Weight loss was assessed monthly during the six-month intervention and again at 9 months; changes in physical activity, eating behaviors, and weight-related wellness program participation were also recorded.

At six months, group-incentive participants had lost more weight than individual-incentive (mean difference: 3.2 kg, p=0.008) and no-incentive participants (mean difference: 4.4 kg, p<0.001). When reassessed 3 months after incentives ended, group-incentive participants maintained greater weight loss compared to no-incentive participants but not compared to individual-incentive participants.

By Caroline Huang and Leah Hawkins

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