Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Money Doesn't Motivate People to Lose Weight?

An interesting tidbit from the NY Times:

Behavior: Money Not a Motivator in Losing Weight

Researchers studied 2,407 overweight and obese people enrolled in weight-loss schemes at their jobs. Participants were divided into three groups. The first received $60 for keeping a 5 percent weight loss for a year. The second agreed to pay about $100; the money would be returned if they lost 5 percent of their weight, and they would get bonuses for losing more. The third, a control group, was offered only $20, a reward for staying in the program for a year.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that money had very little effect. The group that was offered $60 lost an average of just 1.4 pounds, while the controls lost 1.8. Those who made the $100 deposit dropped an average of 1.9 pounds more than the controls, but, the authors write, people motivated enough to risk their own money would most likely have lost weight with any program.
The article points out that the study had some limitations that make it far from conclusive. First of all, the amounts of money in the study were quite small, probably not enough to seriously motivate anyone. But it's not exactly practical to try studying the effect of a million dollar bonus for dieting! Also, I believe there have been other studies that have shown that when you pay people to achieve something, it doesn't always help encourage that behavior-- it's as if it obscures the fact that the goal is worth striving for on its own merits.

But it's an interesting question-- losing weight is a very difficult thing for many people to do. I'd like to think I would have the discipline to achieve a goal like weight loss, or quitting smoking, etc. in order to win a large sum of money, but who knows, maybe I'd blow it! How about you? What amount of money would motivate you to stick with a diet and exercise plan and lose weight?

12 comments:

Dan said...

I think that if the price is right it could work. Maybe a tax Rebate of $3,000.00 to counter balance health care costs. I know that I would take excercising a little more serious with a carrot at the end of a stick.

-Dan Malone-

Anonymous said...

Really now, $60? $60? This is so stupid as to be unbelievable. Why not offer them a nickel. That would prove a lot, right? I have news for these researchers, 1978 called they want their reward money back. Dum-dums.

Anonymous said...

I would need enough money to cover childcare costs, gym fees, a dietician, and a personal trainer.

Gord said...

I'll work hard for money, but I won't push away my carbs for small amounts of money. It would have to be something like, $50 per lb to lose it and $10 per month per pound to keep it off. That's incentive. Or, just have a mild heart attack and then have the doctor tell you to lose it or die within months. That's the motivator.

marie said...

My mom once told me that she would give me $1 per pound lost. Ya right.

negative_net_worth said...

Agreed, the amount is just too small for it to be enough of a motivator for me....I just love candy waaaay to much to be swayed for $60.

cash gifting said...

You can't buy good health. Health alone is what motivates me. Money can be a strong motivator but if people realized the link between obesity and health problems they wouldn't need money to motivate them.

Ryan

Anonymous said...

I agree with "cash gifting". Making people understand the link between obesity & health problems would help.

I suppose the study/survey was done with single (wrong) intention if money motivates people to lose weight. They should have spend that much time/energy on educating people with factual data (in terms of dollars) between obesity & health care.

Midnightsky Fibers said...

Every time I read about studies like this I go- man, no fair- what about those of us who DONT need to lose weight?

That being said, I think companies could give other incentives that would encourage healthier living- bonuses for not smoking (and making health care costs higher for the group), offering healthy breakfast or lunch alternatives at meetings and staff events, paying for gym memberships, having a nutritionist come in to meet with people, sponsoring people who want to do marathons, etc.

marci said...

I agree with @Midnightsky Fibers about the company incentives, like bonuses for not smoking, gym memberships, nutritionists, etc. Those would be positive motivators for people to either lose weight or continue to keep physically fit and healthy.

Abigail said...

I'm a little surprised by the results. I guess I understand that some people would give the $100 and write it off as lost. But to essentially turn down free money? Yeesh.

Yes, ideally we would all get a dietitian and gym membership. But I've got news for those of you who cited these as "necessary" -- all I have is a good pair of walking shoes, a couple workout outfits and some music. I stocked up on Healthy Choice meals when they were on sale for $2 each. For lunch, I usually have a sandwich. I take a 20 minute walk 3-5 times a week and I lose one pound a week.

I know it's hard to find time to get away from the kids for a walk. But I have chronic fatigue and I'm able to push myself to work out enough to lose weight because it's important to me.

I guess that sounds a little preachy, which I am not, generally. I let myself gain far too much weight and it's bad for my health. And we can't afford gym fees or a personal trainer -- even when we have a friend who cuts his rates down to $40 for my husband and I. So I find ways to get fit outside a gym.

This is a frugal blog, folks. Don't "assume" you need a gym or paid advice to lose weight. There's tons of useful (verifiable) articles on the Internet from health and fitness magazines and by doctors. There are workout regimes specifically for working out in the world and not a gym!

Julie said...

Maybe I'm just money-hungry, but I would lose weight for $60. Actually, I lost 10 lbs last year because I wanted to spend less on food. For me, counting pennies is more rewarding than counting calories.