Using wireless handheld computers and tailored text messaging to reduce negative consequences of drinking alcohol

J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2007 Jul;68(4):534-7. doi: 10.15288/jsad.2007.68.534.


Objective: The purpose of this trial was to investigate the feasibility and short-term outcomes of a tailored intervention, delivered via text messages to wireless handheld computers, to reduce alcohol-related consequences among college students.

Method: Forty college students were randomly assigned to one of two study groups. In the control group, participants used handheld computers to complete daily surveys about their drinking behavior and related variables. In the treatment group, participants used the handheld computers to complete daily surveys and to receive individually tailored messages on the units. The tailored messages addressed consequences of alcohol use and were tailored to respondents' reported behavior, self-efficacy, and outcome expectancies regarding alcohol-related consequences.

Results: All treatment group participants reported receiving messages on their handheld computers; most students were sent messages on 12-14 days. Controlling for baseline differences, participants in the treatment group reported drinking significantly fewer drinks per drinking day than participants in the control group during the study period. At follow-up, participants in the treatment group had lower expectancies that they would get in trouble as a result of alcohol consumption than did control group participants. Participants provided both positive and negative feedback about the messages.

Conclusions: This study demonstrated the feasibility of delivering tailored messages via wireless handheld computers. Tailored messages about avoiding negative consequences of alcohol use delivered via handheld computers had small but positive effects on alcohol-related attitudes and behaviors. Future research should replicate these findings with a larger, more diverse sample, during a longer period, and with other audiences.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance / psychology*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Software*
  • Students / psychology
  • Temperance / psychology