Digital interventions to reduce alcoholism 'warrant further investigation'
Study of more than 34,000 participants found computer- and smartphone-based intercessions 'may be better than doing nothing, or receiving general health advice'.
Study of more than 34,000 participants found computer- and smartphone-based intercessions 'may be better than doing nothing, or receiving general health advice'
Excessive alcohol use is physically, psychologically and socially harmful.
Brief advice or counselling by nurses and doctors in primary care has been shown to reduce drinking by four- to-five units a week.
However, many people don’t disclose the scale of their alcohol consumption to healthcare professionals. Recently, digital interventions, via computers and smartphones, have become available to provide personalised advice to reduce harmful alcohol consumption.
This Cochrane systematic review of randomised controlled trials assessed the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these digital interventions. Fifty-seven studies were included with 34,390 participants; 41 studies (19,241) provided data for meta-analysis which demonstrated those using digital interventions had an average reduction of up to three (UK) standard drinks a week compared to control participants.
The interventions used a median of nine behaviour change techniques with behaviour substitution, problem solving, and credible source associated with effectiveness in reducing alcohol consumption.
Digital interventions via computers and smartphones to reduce excessive alcohol intake may be better than doing nothing, or receiving general health advice, and warrant further investigation.
Kaner EF, Beyer FR, Garnett C, et al (2017) Personalised digital interventions for reducing hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in community-dwelling populations. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD011479.pub2.
Vari M Drennan is professor of health care and policy research, Kingston University & St George’s University of London