Unitcheck (www.unitcheck.co.uk) is a website that provides personalized feedback and advice on alcohol consumption, designed to help people evaluate their own drinking and risk.
Each time a person visits the website and completes the assessments and drinking diary, personalized feedback is provided on level of alcohol consumption, social norms, and generic additional information (e.g., how to calculate units, risks associated with heavy consumption, national drinking guidelines).
Young Adults (18–30)
The feasibility and effectiveness of a web-based personalized feedback and social norms alcohol intervention in UK university students: a randomised control trial.
Bewick BM, Trusler K, Mulhern B, Barkham M, Hill AJ. Addictive Behaviors. 2008. 33(9):1192-8. PMID: 18554819.
Summary: This is the first RCT to evaluate web-based alcohol interventions in the UK. In this randomized controlled trial, 1075 university students were randomly assigned to a control (assessment only) or intervention condition (unlimited access to Unitcheck). Participants completed assessments at weeks 1 and 12, including: screening of problematic drinking, average number of drinks per drinking occasion, number of drinks over the last week, and program acceptance (e.g., usefulness, likelihood of reduced drinking, interest in using website again, increase awareness of amount consumed, likelihood of recommending to friends).
Participants in the intervention condition drank significantly less per occasion than those in the control group at week 12. There were no other significant between the two groups. Sixty-three percent of intervention participants agreed that the feedback was very useful. However, only 6% agreed that it would amount to any reductions in consumption. Forty-six percent of the sample agreed that they would like to use the website again, 53% agreed that it will make them think more about their consumption, and 44% would recommend the website to a friend.
Take Away: The Unitcheck approach to delivering personalized feedback and social norms information showed promise in reducing per occasion alcohol consumption among UK students. Future research is needed to understand the relationship between reduced heavy episodic drinking and maintenance of overall weekly consumption levels in this population.
Providing web-based feedback and social norms information to reduce student alcohol intake: A multisite investigation.
Bewick BM, West R, Gill J, O’May F, Mulern B, Barkham M, Hill AJ. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2010. 12(5):e59. PMCID: PMC3057315.
Summary: In this randomized controlled trial, 1112 e-recruited students who endorsed drinking alcohol ‘at least every 6 months’ were assigned to: 1) a control group (assessments only), 2) immediate access to Unitcheck (weeks 1-7), or 3) delayed access to Unitcheck (weeks 8-15). Students were assessed at baseline, 1-, 8-, 16-, and 24-weeks for average number of drinks per occasion and average number of drinks over the last week.
Both the immediate and delayed intervention groups showed a significant decrease from baseline to follow-up in average number of drinks over the last week, but there was no significant difference in number of drinks per occasion. A main effect of time on past week quantity such that there was a significant decrease between time 1 and all other time points but no significant differences between time 2, time 3 or time 4 for intervention group participants. No differences were observed between intervention groups. While there was no main effect of time on average units consumed per drinking occasion over the previous week, here was a significant time by treatment arm interaction for both the control and the delayed intervention arms between times 1 and 2, 1 and 3 and 1 and 4, for both groups. Additionally, there was a significant effect of assessment (without intervention) on change across time (i.e., those who completed at least 2 assessments reduced their drinking).
Take Away: It is not clear whether the Unitcheck intervention was substantially better than assessment only Web-based interventions that provide personalized feedback and incorporate social norms information can be effective in reducing alcohol use.
The effectiveness of a web-based personalized feedback and social norms alcohol intervention on United Kingdom university students: randomized controlled trial.
Bewick BM, West RM, Barkham M, Mulhern B, Marlow R, Traviss G, Hill AJ. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2013. 15(7):e137. PMCID: PMC3742391.
Summary: In this replication, two-arm, randomized controlled trial, 1,618 university students who expressed interest in participating in a study examining alcohol consumption were randomly selectedassigned to a control (assessment only) or intervention condition (unlimited access to Unitcheck). Participants completed assessments at weeks 1, 16 and 34 that included screening of problematic drinking, average number of drinks consumed per drinking occasion, number of drinks over the last week, and risk behaviors.
Results indicate that tThere was a significant effect of assessment completion (without intervention) on past week alcohol consumption on change across time, with the effect being greatest for those who completed the assessment at 34 weeks . Additional reduced consumption effects were observed for both assignment to the intervention and increased visits to the website.
Take Away: Unitcheck is effective in reducing the amount of alcohol consumed, and the reductions can be maintained up to nearly five months post intervention . There was a significant The significant assessment effect suggests that the action of completing assessments may promote self-awareness about alcohol consumption to motivate reduced use.