Wager-based programs offering cash rewards to people who meet weight goals are the latest rage among big employers trying to cut health care costs. A new study suggests they’re very effective, especially among guys.
Overweight men participating in a “HealthyWage” challenge that offered the chance to win $400 on a $100 bet, were 4 times more likely than women to lose 10% or more of total body weight.
The 66 study participants (26 men, 47 women) were all Fortune 50 employees, with baseline BMI’s over 27. After putting in their $100 “ante” and getting initial weight measurements, they could choose any formal or informal non-drug-based diet/fitness regimen to achieve the weight targets.
Half of all participants dropped 5% of total body weight, and 29% lost 10% or more over 6 months. But there was a clear gender difference: 63% of the men lost 10% or more, compared to 15% of the women.
HealthyWage’s founders believe the unique combination of carrots (cash rewards) and sticks (losing their $100 ante, peer shame) have a unique motivating effect in the male psyche, one that can be used to engender a wide range of health promoting behaviors (Read “Sustainable Weight Loss: Understanding the Psychology of Obesity” from HPC’s archive).
Skin in the Game–Literally
HealthyWage, with its “Wellness is Valuable” tagline, is at the forefront of the weight wagering movement, creating competitive, cash-fueled programs for more than 350 major employers. In addition to administering the “betting pool,” and officiating the weight-checks, HealthyWage also provides a company’s employees with coaching support, motivational tools, weight management info and self-tracking technology to give participants the best possible shot at losing to win.
HealthyWage co-founder David Roddenberry says the finding that men respond particularly well to a money-charged, competition-based approach is important because historically, men have been far less willing than women to enroll in weight loss programs, employer-based or otherwise. He noted that men still account for less than 15% of all participants in commercial weight-loss programs.
The wager approach is attractive to many men because it taps into a love of competition and a desire to win that he believes is hard-wired into the psyches of a majority of men, Roddenberry says.
The new study was funded and conducted by HealthyWage, and has not yet been published in any peer reviewed medical journal. In addition to working with corporations, HealthyWage also provides public “challenges” that are open to anyone wishing to lose weight and willing to put skin—and subcutaneous fat—in the game.