A mixed-methods randomized controlled trial of financial incentives and peer networks to promote walking among older adults

Health Educ Behav. 2014 Oct;41(1 Suppl):43S-50S. doi: 10.1177/1090198114540464.


Background: Financial incentives and peer networks could be delivered through eHealth technologies to encourage older adults to walk more.

Methods: We conducted a 24-week randomized trial in which 92 older adults with a computer and Internet access received a pedometer, daily walking goals, and weekly feedback on goal achievement. Participants were randomized to weekly feedback only (Comparison), entry into a lottery with potential to earn up to $200 each week walking goals were met (Financial Incentive), linkage to four other participants through an online message board (Peer Network), or both interventions (Combined). Main outcomes were the proportion of days walking goals were met during the 16-week intervention and 8-week follow-up. We conducted a content analysis of messages posted by Peer Network and Combined arm participants.

Results: During the 16-week intervention, there were no differences in the proportion of days walking goals were met in the Financial Incentive (39.7%; p = .78), Peer Network (24.9%; p = .08), and Combined (36.0%; p = .77) arms compared with the Comparison arm (36.0%). During 8 weeks of follow-up, the proportion of days walking goals were met was lower in the Peer Network arm (18.7%; p = .025) but not in the Financial Incentive (29.3%; p = .50) or Combined (24.8%; p = .37) arms, relative to the Comparison arm (34.5%). Messages posted by participants focused on barriers to walking and provision of social support.

Conclusions: Financial incentives and peer networks delivered through eHealth technologies did not result in older adults walking more.

Keywords: behavioral economics; eHealth; financial incentives; older adults; walking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Peer Group*
  • Reward
  • Walking*