The effectiveness of a Web-based personalized feedback and social norms alcohol intervention on United Kingdom university students: Randomized controlled trial

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2013, 15 (7)
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Background: Alcohol consumption in the student population continues to be cause for concern. Building on the established evidence base for traditional brief interventions, interventions using the Internet as a mode of delivery are being developed. Published evidence of replication of initial findings and ongoing development and modification of Web-based personalized feedback interventions for student alcohol use is relatively rare. The current paper reports on the replication of the initial Unitcheck feasibility trial. Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of Unitcheck, a Web-based intervention that provides instant personalized feedback on alcohol consumption. It was hypothesized that use of Unitcheck would be associated with a reduction in alcohol consumption. Methods: A randomized control trial with two arms (control=assessment only; intervention=fully automated personalized feedback delivered using a Web-based intervention). The intervention was available week 1 through to week 15. Students at a UK university who were completing a university-wide annual student union electronic survey were invited to participate in the current study. Participants (n=1618) were stratified by sex, age group, year of study, self-reported alcohol consumption, then randomly assigned to one of the two arms, and invited to participate in the current trial. Participants were not blind to allocation. In total, n=1478 (n=723 intervention, n=755 control) participants accepted the invitation. Of these, 70% were female, the age ranged from 17-50 years old, and 88% were white/white British. Data were collected electronically via two websites: one for each treatment arm. Participants completed assessments at weeks 1, 16, and 34. Assessment included CAGE, a 7-day retrospective drinking diary, and drinks consumed per drinking occasion. Results: The regression model predicted a monitoring effect, with participants who completed assessments reducing alcohol consumption over the final week. Further reductions were predicted for those allocated to receive the intervention, and additional reductions were predicted as the number of visits to the intervention website increased. Conclusions: Unitcheck can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, and the reduction can be sustained in the medium term (ie, 19 weeks after intervention was withdrawn). The findings suggest self-monitoring is an active ingredient to Web-based personalized feedback. © Bridgette M Bewick, Robert M West, Michael Barkham, Brendan Mulhern, Robert Marlow, Gemma Traviss, Andrew J Hill.
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