Will power can be bought according to a year-long study by the Mayo Clinic on the financial incentives of weight loss that involved offering people the chance to win or lose $20 dependent on their ability to shed four pounds a month up to a set goal that depended on their starting weight. If they succeeded they got $20. If they failed they had to kick in that amount of money.
While some companies, as well as insurers and Internet programs often try to entice their employees/customers to change bad habits, including over-eating and smoking, they only seem to work in the short-term, noted Dr. Steve Driver, one of the study’s leaders.
“Incentives are not like training wheels where people learn healthy habits and then will continue on their own,” he commented. “You have to keep them up for them to work.”
The diet study involved 100 obese employees at the Mayo Clinic, but was not a workplace wellness program. 50% were given weight loss counseling, monthly weigh-ins and a three-month gym membership. The remaining half had those things plus financial incentives. In the end, it turned out that those who were offered money lost four times more weight than the others.
While part of the (loss) kitty was used to pay the rewards, the rest of the money was put into a lottery that anyone could win, whether they achieved their weight goal loss or not.
*Although the Mayo Clinic paid for the study, it should be noted that Dr. Driver owns stock in Gympact, a company with an Internet program that gives financial incentives for exercising.