May 30, 2024

Financial incentives of up to £400 along with text messages can encourage men living with obesity to lose weight, research has found.

The research, known as Game of Stones and presented at the European Congress of Obesity, involved a year-long trial involving 585 obese men living with BelfastBristol and Glasgow.

They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: text messages with financial incentives, text messages only or the control group. Thirty-nine percent of the participants were from a lower socioeconomic background, while 40% had two or more long-term health conditions.

Those assigned to the group that received texts with financial incentives were sent motivational messages and healthy eating tips. They were also told that £400 would be transferred to them at the end of the trial, but they would lose money if they did not reach a weight loss target.

Fifty pounds will be taken away if they haven’t lost 5% of their body weight after three months, £150 if they haven’t lost 10% of their weight after six months and £200 if they haven’t maintained the 10% weight loss n year.

The SMS group received the same messages, but without the financial reward.

The study found that the men who received the financial incentives along with the text messages lost the most weight, at 4.8% of their body weight. This compared to the text message alone group which lost 2.7%, and 1.3% for the control group.

Prof Pat Hoddinott, of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health The Occupational Research Unit at the University of Stirling, which led the study, said it hoped the study would be adopted by the NHS, adding that men living with obesity “helped design the structure of the incentives and helped us to write the text messages”.

Hoddinott added that the study was inspired by “deposit contracts,” where people deposit their own money and stand to lose it if they don’t meet weight loss goals.

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“This is informed by behavioral economic theory, which suggests that people are more motivated by the prospect of losing money than the prospect of gaining money,” she said.

“However, not everyone can afford to deposit their own money, so we designed the Game of Stones trial, which uses a donation incentive, where the money is placed in an account at the start, which men with a low allow income to join.”

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