Introducing a digital support tool to track and reduce alcohol consumption

August 8, 2022
Introducing a digital support tool to track and reduce alcohol consumption

People who find themselves struggling to stick with their goals to reduce alcohol consumption will benefit from a new digital support tool developed by researchers at Linköping University in Sweden. Assessing participants who used the tool in a study showed a pleasant 25% lower alcohol consumption in just four months.

Digital support tools including mobile apps or online support, is a cost-friendly intervention that easily offers help to more people who do not want to turn to the healthcare system, for fear of stigma.

“People who want to quit smoking are encouraged and supported by those around them. But there is stigma around wanting to stop drinking alcohol,” said Associate Professor Marcus Bendtsen from the Department of Health, Medicine and Caring Sciences at Linköping University. “There is a common conception that one should be able to handle one’s own alcohol consumption, and many don’t seek help, even if they want to change their behaviour.”

The researchers wanted to reach out to people in the very moment when they were motivated to reduce their alcohol consumption and so developed a digital support tool for this very purpose.

Study participants were recruited online through targeted adverts shown to people looking for information about how to drink less alcohol. People who chose to participate in the study were randomly allocated into two groups: one group was immediately given access to the new digital tool, while the other group was offered existing web-based resources, and was asked to motivate themselves to reduce their consumption. They received access to the digital tool much later.

Those in the first group received an encouraging message every Sunday via the tool, which prompted them to assess their alcohol consumption throughout the past week. Participants also received feedback and access to even more tools to help set goals for themselves and keep track of their alcohol consumption over time.

The participants could even write messages to themselves and choose when to receive them – for example, a reminder to take it easy with the drinking on a certain day or a motivational reminder about why they wanted to drink less.

Along the way, participants would be educated/reminded about the social risks from being under the influence of alcohol, and about the risks to one’s own health.

According to the researchers, the effects of just four months of using the digital support tool was comparable to other digital interventions from international studies, given the broad age range of the current study participants.

“Those who had access to the digital tool had roughly 25% lower alcohol consumption than the group which didn’t, which is a slightly larger effect than we expected. This kind of tool won’t change the overall societal situation when it comes to alcohol consumption, but it is a very good tool for individuals who want to change their own lives,” said Assoc. Prof. Bendtsen.

The researchers are working on an app to make the tool available for public use, such that it is adaptable to individual needs. The researchers are also performing health economic calculations to see what the effects on healthcare savings and quality of life would be when using the tool over a 30–40-year period.

In Sweden, alcohol consumption has remained at the same level for a long time – despite sale and tax regulations on alcohol. Around 3 in 10 adults, or 3 million Swedes, drink alcohol in such a way that it is classified as risky drinking.

It is counted as risky drinking if a man drinks 14 standard drinks (12g of alcohol) or more per week, or 5 or more standard drinks on one occasion at least once a month; risky drinking in women, meanwhile, is defined as 9 standard drinks or more per week, or 4 or more standard drinks on one occasion.

In such cases, the risk of diseases such as cancer, stroke, and heart problems are considerably higher. People who are risky drinkers are also at a much higher risk of other physical and psychological negative consequences.


Category: Education, Features

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