New technologies for reducing excessive alcohol use

What are the aims of this project? 

This project aims to (i) identify the evidence for effectiveness, active ingredients and mechanisms of action of digital interventions to reduce hazardous and harmful drinking in the general population, (ii) explore users’ views about the acceptability and usefulness of digital technology to support alcohol intervention and (iii) design and evaluate a smartphone application to reduce excessive alcohol consumption.

Why is this important?

The key drivers for the project are (i) the high prevalence of hazardous and harmful drinking in the general population, with deleterious consequences for health, violence and public safety, and (ii) new developments in a variety of new technological applications that are becoming available and have little evidence of effectiveness.

How will the research be carried out?

A systematic review of randomised controlled trials of technology-based brief interventions for aiming to reduce alcohol consumption will be carried out.  A second systematic review will focus on mobile phone apps aiming to help reduce excessive alcohol consumption and will particularly examine evidence for, and the theoretical basis of, the effectiveness of these apps.  A new interactive mobile phone app will be developed via several prototype phases and will then be evaluated in comparison to an information-only version of the app.  Excessive alcohol consumers will be recruited from websites including NHS Choices and Change4Life, will download the app and be randomly assigned to the interactive or information-only versions.  Changes in their drinking will be assessed via an electronic drinking diary.  Long-term cost-effectiveness of the intervention will be examined using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model.

Timeframe: 

For the digital alcohol review, the project ended on the 30th September 2015 and a final report was submitted to SPHR on the 14th December 2015.

 Who is undertaking the research?

The research is led by Eileen Kaner (FUSE), Susan Michie (UCL), Robert West (UCL), Matt Hickman (Bristol), Marcus Munafo (Bristol), Alan Brennan (Sheffield) and Mark Limmer and Maria Piacentini (LiLac).

 How are stakeholders being engaged?

For the digital alcohol review work, a summary of review findings was presented to a meeting of policy makers from Public Health England, Department of Health and the Home Office on the 17th September 2015 at Wellington House. Professor Kaner has also discussed findings with the Behavioural Insights Team (Ross Broad, Simon Rudda) and the ‘What Works’ centre (David Halpern) which are linked to the Cabinet Office.

What will be the outputs from the study? 

  • Presentations and papers from the project will be listed here. Kaner EF, Beyer FR, Brown J, Crane D, Garnett C, Hickman M, Muirhead C, Redmore J, Michie S, de Vocht F. Personalised digital interventions for reducing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in community-dwelling populations (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 1.
  • Beyer FR, Maniatopoulos G, Hickman M, Michie S. Engagement with digital interventions for reducing hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption in community-dwelling populations: a systematic review. PROSPERO 2015:CRD42015019790 Available from http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/PROSPERO/display_record.asp?ID=CRD42015019790
  • Muirhead C, et al. (2015) Personalised digital interventions for reducing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in community-dwelling populations. 11th UKSBM Annual Scientific Meeting: ‘Biology, Behaviour & Environment’.
  • Crane D, et al. (2015) Behaviour change techniques used in digital interventions to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. 11th UKSBM Annual Scientific Meeting: ‘Biology, Behaviour & Environment’.
  • Garnett C, et al. (2015) Theory content of digital interventions for reducing alcohol consumption: a systematic review. 11th UKSBM Annual Scientific Meeting: ‘Biology, Behaviour & Environment’.
  • Beyer FR, et al. (2015) Acceptability of and engagement with digital interventions for reducing hazardous or harmful alcohol consumption in community-dwelling populations: a systematic review. 11th UKSBM Annual Scientific Meeting: ‘Biology, Behaviour & Environment’.