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Web intervention reduced students’ drinking

Heavy drinkers in the study were given an estimate of their peak blood-alcohol concentration. Heavy drinkers in the study were given an estimate of their peak blood-alcohol concentration.

University students who received a brief personalized online assessment of their drinking habits reduced their alcohol consumption for at least several months afterward, a recent study by Australian and New Zealand researchers suggests.

Unhealthy use of alcohol is becoming more prevalent among young adults in many countries, particularly university students (as opposed to their peers who are not students), the researchers said in Monday’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the study, participants at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, filled in an online questionnaire about their alcohol consumption. About half of those who were considered heavy drinkers were then randomly assigned to receive a 10-minute web-based intervention.

The intervention consisted of two parts: a “motivational assessment,” which could include such things as links to resources for people with drinking problems and information on the health risks of binge drinking; and “personalized feedback,” such as an estimate of a participant’s blood alcohol concentration during his or her heaviest drinking episode, the monetary cost of drinking and comparisons to other students’ drinking.

Participants were then reassessed at one month and at six months after the initial survey.

At the one-month mark, heavy drinkers who received the web-based intervention drank 17 per cent less alcohol than those who did not receive the intervention. At the six-month point, they consumed 11 per cent less than those who just did the survey.

Kypros Kypri of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, and colleagues analyzed results from a 2007 web-based survey taken by 7,237 students ages 17 to 24.

The test included questions on:

  • Demographics.
  • Drinking in the last year.
  • Largest number of drinks consumed at a time within the last four weeks.
  • Duration of drinking episode.
  • Secondhand effects such as being pushed or assaulted.
  • Opinions on labelling of alcoholic beverages.
  • Smoking history.
  • Height and weight.

Of the 2, 435 people who scored in the hazardous or harmful drinking range — such as consuming four standard 10-gram ethanol drinks on a single occasion — 1,251 were randomly assigned to a web-based intervention group and 1, 184 to the survey-only control group.

Reducing health risks

After one month, participants in the intervention group drank 0.89 times less often and 0.93 times less volume of alcohol than did people in the control group and 0.83 less alcohol overall compared with the control group.

The decline in drinking frequency and overall volume was still true at six months, the researchers said.

“Given the scale on which proactive web-based electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI) can be delivered and its acceptability to student drinkers, we can be optimistic that a widespread application of this intervention would produce a benefit in this population group,” the study’s authors concluded.

The online intervention is being made available free to nonprofit organizations and could be extended to high schools, medical clinics and hospitals, they suggested.

The researchers said they had to rely on self-reports on drinking rather than more objective measurements. It’s also possible that those in the intervention group were inclined to underreport their drinking to a greater extent than the controls.

Contamination of results might have also occurred if those who received the intervention talked about their feedback with people in the control group who inadvertently learned about the program.

The study was funded in part by a grant from the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation.

source: CBC News

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