Gamification and social incentives to improve glycemic control among obese diabetic adults


Nearly 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and obesity and physical inactivity contribute to poor glycemic control. While social networks have been demonstrated to influence health behaviors, the best way to design social incentives to promote weight loss and physical activity is unknown.


We designed a weight loss and physical activity program using gamification to enhance social incentives. We enrolled approximately 360 adults with type 2 diabetes who were obese and had high hemoglobin A1c in a 1-year clinical trial. Participants received a wearable device and wireless weight scale and were randomly assigned to a control group or one of three gamification interventions designed to enhance supportive, competitive, or collaborative social incentives.


We found that gamification led to significant increases in physical activity that were sustained for one year when it was designed to enhance competition or support, but not collaboration. There were no significant changes in weight or hemoglobin A1c for any of the interventions relative to the control.


Doris Duke Charitable Foundation