Financial reward helping men lose weight

Pictured is a bathroom scale with a needle pointing.
A stock image of a bathroom scale with a needle pointing at 130KG. Photo: le Moal Olivier / Alamy Stock Photo

A study by the University of Stirling has found that offering a financial incentive is helping men to lose weight.

A group of 585 men living across the UK took part in the research and split into three groups.

The group that received daily supportive text messages and the incentive to earn £400 for meeting weight loss goals were found to lose the most weight over 12 months.

The study, called Game of Stones, found the financial reward made a “significant difference” to those who were offered no cash prize.

Professor Pat Hoddinott who led the study reflected on the findings.

“Losing weight can make people feel better, reduce their risk of many health problems such as diabetes, and helps the health service with their aim to keep men well. However, we know men often don’t like to go to traditional weight loss groups.

“This was a very carefully planned study, created for men with men,” said Hoddinott.

“We worked closely with various men’s health groups and charities, including Men’s Health Forum in the UK and Ireland, with more than 1000 men living with obesity informing the design of the incentive structure.

“The research showed that offering cash incentives was a popular and effective way of helping men to lose weight.

“This initiative would be a low-cost solution for the health service to offer to men, requiring only four short weight appointments, and with money paid out only at the end to those who lose over 5% of their starting weight.”

The men who participated in the study had an average age of 51 with 39% living in areas with lower socioeconomic status whilst 29% reported a disability, 40% had multiple long-term conditions and 25% said they have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Researchers hope the study will help support action to tackle obesity after a recent report showed the NHS annually spends £6.5 billion on obesity related diseases.

The Health Survey for England 2021 found 25.9% of people in England are obese with men more likely to be overweight than women.

Nevil Chesterfield, 68, believed the financial reward was ‘important’ in wanting to lose weight.

“Game of Stones was a real success for me,” he said. “It has a number of elements which make it stand out.

“The fact that it is aimed at men only was an important draw for me, the specific targets meant there was a focus with reasonable goals to aim for and I think the competitive element was helpful as was the series of boosts to self-esteem provided by hitting each target.

“The financial incentive was important – it did give the project tremendous credibility when I explained it to my peer group.

“Partaking in a university study sounds worthy, and the fact that it is intended to inform future health policy gives seriousness, but the payments for hitting targets takes it to new heights, particularly with male friends. To them it becomes something more than some sort of diet.”