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A Pilot Study Testing the Effect of Different Levels of Financial Incentives on Weight Loss Among Overweight Employees

Finkelstein, Eric A. PhD; Linnan, Laura A. ScD; Tate, Deborah F. PhD; Birken, Ben E. MS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2007 - Volume 49 - Issue 9 - p 981-989
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31813c6dcb
Original Articles

Objective: To test the ability of two levels of modest financial incentives to encourage weight loss among overweight employees.

Methods: This study used a randomized design with measurements at baseline, 3, and 6 months and two levels of financial incentives ($7 and $14 per percentage point of weight lost). Payments were structured so that all participants had equal ability to obtain the incentives during the study period.

Results: At 3 months, participants with no financial incentive lost 2 pounds, those in the $7 group lost approximately 3 pounds, and those in the $14 group lost 4.7 pounds. Between baseline and 6 months, when the financial gains were equalized, weight losses were similar across groups.

Conclusion: This study revealed that modest financial incentives can be effective in motivating overweight employees to lose weight.

From RTI International (Dr Finkelstein), Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Drs Linnan and Tate, and Mr Birken), Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

CME Available for this Article at

Eric Finkelstein and the authors of this paper received support from the Centers for Diease Control and Prevention (P30CD000138-01 and R01-DP000102).

Address correspondence to: Eric Finkelstein, RTI International, 3040 Cornwallis Road, PO Box 12194, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709; E-mail:

©2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine