Workers Crave More than Currency


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Losing weight isn’t always fun. Dropping the pounds is rewarding, but the journey can be tough. Very tough.

Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for your efforts? It turns out that doesn’t always entice employees, according to a new study.

Here’s a taste:

The study, published in January’s issue of the journal Health Affairs, reported the results of a yearlong randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of financial incentives to encourage weight loss among 197 obese employees of the University of Pennsylvania health system.

Participants were asked to lose 5% of their weight. Each was assigned to one of four study groups. The control group wasn’t offered any financial rewards. The three other groups were offered an incentive valued at $550.

People in one group were told they would begin receiving health insurance premium discounts biweekly immediately after reaching their weight loss goal. In another group, the people were told they would receive biweekly premium adjustments the following year if they reached their goal. Volunteers in the final group were eligible for a daily lottery payment if they met their daily weight loss goal and weighed in the previous day.

At year’s end, no group had met the 5% weight loss target. Participants’ average weight was virtually unchanged, whether or not they had a financial incentive to lose pounds. Nineteen percent of participants did meet the 5% target, but they weren’t concentrated in any particular group.

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