Financial incentives for a healthy life style and disease prevention among older people: a systematic literature review

Marzena Tambor*, Milena Pavlova, Stanisława Golinowska, Jelena Arsenijevic, Willem Groot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: To motivate people to lead a healthier life and to engage in disease prevention, explicit financial incentives, such as monetary rewards for attaining health-related targets (e.g. smoking cessation, weight loss or increased physical activity) or disincentives for reverting to unhealthy habits, are applied. A review focused on financial incentives for health promotion among older people is lacking. Attention to this group is necessary because older people may respond differently to financial incentives, e.g. because of differences in opportunity costs and health perceptions. To outline how explicit financial incentives for healthy lifestyle and disease prevention work among older persons, this study reviews the recent evidence on this topic.

METHODS: We applied the method of systematic literature review and we searched in PUBMED, ECONLIT and COCHRANE LIBRARY for studies focused on explicit financial incentives targeted at older adults to promote health and stimulate primary prevention as well as screening. The publications selected as relevant were analyzed based on directed (relational) content analysis. The results are presented in a narrative manner complemented with an appendix table that describes the study details. We assessed the design of the studies reported in the publications in a qualitative manner. We also checked the quality of our review using the PRISMA 2009 checklist.

RESULTS: We identified 15 studies on the role of explicit financial incentives in changing health-related behavior of older people. They include both, quantitative studies on the effectiveness of financial rewards as well as qualitative studies on the acceptability of financial incentives. The quantitative studies are characterized by a great diversity of designs and provide mixed results on the effects of explicit financial incentives. The results of the qualitative studies indicate limited trust of older people in the use of explicit financial incentives for health promotion and prevention.

CONCLUSIONS: More research is needed on the effects of explicit financial incentives for prevention and promotion among older people before their broader use can be recommended. Overall, the design of the financial incentive system may be a crucial element in their acceptability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number426
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Volume16 Suppl 5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2016


  • Financial incentives
  • Healthy life style
  • Disease prevention
  • Older adults

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