Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Behavior: Money Not a Motivator in Losing Weight

“Losing weight is so hard you cannot even pay people to do it. 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 researchers acknowledge that this was not a randomized controlled experiment. Still, they write, it is informative about how programs work — or fail. One of the authors, John Cawley, an economist at Cornell, said that while money was ineffective in these cases, there is surely some amount of money that would persuade most people to lose weight. But no one knows what that amount is.”


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