Why a $550 incentive to lose weight failed

Story highlights

  • Promising workers lower health insurance premiums for losing weight did nothing to help them take off the pounds
  • At year's end, no group had met the 5 percent weight-loss target

Promising workers lower health insurance premiums for losing weight did nothing to help them take off the pounds, a recent study found. At the end of a year, obese workers had lost less than 1.5 pounds on average, statistically no different than the minute average gain of a tenth of a pound for workers who weren't offered a financial incentive to lose weight.

"Our study highlights some of the weaknesses" of workplace wellness programs, said Dr. Mitesh Patel, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine and the study's lead author.
The study, published this month in the journal Health Affairs, reported the results of a year-long 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.