Financial incentives and weight control

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This paper reviews research studies evaluating the use of financial incentives to promote weight control conducted between 1972 and 2010. It provides an overview of behavioral theories pertaining to incentives and describes empirical studies evaluating specific aspects of incentives. Research on financial incentives and weight control has a history spanning more than 30. years. Early studies were guided by operant learning concepts from Psychology, while more recent studies have relied on economic theory. Both theoretical orientations argue that providing financial rewards for losing weight should motivate people to engage in behaviors that produce weight loss. Empirical research has strongly supported this idea. However, results vary widely due to differences in incentive size and schedule, as well as contextual factors. Thus, many important questions about the use of incentives have not yet been clearly answered. Weight-maintenance studies using financial incentives are particularly sparse, so that their long-term efficacy and thus, value in addressing the public health problem of obesity is unclear. Major obstacles to sustained applications of incentive in weight control are funding sources and acceptance by those who might benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPreventive Medicine
Issue numberSUPPL.
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


  • Behavior
  • Contracts
  • Costs
  • Incentives
  • Maintenance
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss

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