Curbing problem drinking with personalized-feedback interventions: a meta-analysis

Am J Prev Med. 2009 Mar;36(3):247-55. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2008.10.016.


Context: The effectiveness of personalized-feedback interventions to reduce problem drinking has been evaluated in several RCTs and systematic reviews. A meta-analysis was performed to examine the overall effectiveness of brief, single-session personalized-feedback interventions without therapeutic guidance.

Evidence acquisition: The selection and analyses of studies were conducted in 2008. Fourteen RCTs of single-session personalized-feedback interventions without therapeutic guidance were identified, and their combined effectiveness on the reduction of problematic alcohol consumption was evaluated in a meta-analysis. Alcohol consumption was the primary outcome measure.

Evidence synthesis: The pooled standardized-effect size (14 studies, 15 comparisons) for reduced alcohol consumption at post-intervention was d=0.22 (95% CI=0.16, 0.29; the number needed to treat=8.06; areas under the curve=0.562). No heterogeneity existed among the studies (Q=10.962; p=0.69; I(2)=0).

Conclusions: The use of single-session personalized-feedback interventions without therapeutic guidance appears to be a viable and probably cost-effective option for reducing problem drinking in student and general populations. The Internet offers ample opportunities to deliver personalized-feedback interventions on a broad scale, and problem drinkers are known to be amenable to Internet-based interventions. More research is needed on the long-term effectiveness of personalized-feedback interventions for problem drinking, on its potential as a first step in a stepped-care approach, and on its effectiveness with other groups (such as youth obliged to use judicial service programs because of violations of minimum-age drinking laws) and in other settings (such as primary care).

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / prevention & control*
  • Feedback, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Students / psychology