Social networks can influence health behaviors. However, the best way to design interventions to enhance incentives within social networks to improve healthy behaviors is unknown. Moreover, methods to predict which types of interventions will work for patients have not been well examined.
We partnered with Deloitte Consulting, a large employer in the United States, to conduct a 24-week randomized trial with more than 600 overweight and obese adults from across the country. Participants received a wearable device, established a baseline, and were randomly assigned to a control group or one of three gamification interventions designed to enhance supportive, competitive, or collaborative social incentives.
Gamification interventions with support, collaboration, and competition significantly increased physical activity. Competition performed the best and led to a 920 step increase per day compared to control. During the 12-week follow-up, physical activity was lower in all arms but remained significantly greater in the competition arm than in the control arm, with 569 more steps per day.
Throughout the study, the average participant in the gamification with competition arm walked about 100 miles more than the average participant in the control arm. Since gamification is already used widely by insurance companies, workplace wellness programs, and digital health applications, these findings could profoundly impact health if implemented within programs.