Financial incentives help people change unhealthy behaviours but do not lead to lasting changes

According to new research published on the 2nd of April in the journal “Preventive Medicine”, financial incentives can motivate people, especially those from deprived backgrounds, to change behaviours that are bad for their health, but there is currently no evidence that these effects last beyond a few months after incentives stop. The review was led by researchers at the Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU), University of Cambridge and Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health (CSI Health), King’s College London.

What was known prior to this research

  • Although financial incentives can be effective in helping people to stop smoking and lose weight, it was not known whether these changes are maintained after incentives stop.

What this research adds

  • Findings based on high quality 34 studies focusing on smoking cessation, weight loss and physical activity confirm that offering people financial incentives can help them change their behaviour.
  • Financial incentives motivate greater change in more deprived social groups.
  • The positive impact of financial incentives last, at best, for up to three months after the incentives stopped and only when offered for stopping smoking, particularly during pregnancy

Status: Published. Mantzari, Vogt, Shemilt, Wei, Higgins, Marteau. Personal financial incentives for changing habitual health-related behaviors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Access full text