Background: The limited number of electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI) projects taking place in young adult student populations has left knowledge gaps about the specific methods needed to motivate reduced drinking. The aim of the present study was to compare differences in alcohol consumption over time after a series of e-SBIs was conducted with two groups of young adult students who were considered risky drinkers. The intervention group (IG) (n=80) received extensive normative feedback; the control group (CG) (n=78) received very brief feedback consisting of only three statements.
Method: An e-SBI project was conducted in naturalistic settings among young adult students at a Swedish university. This study used a randomized controlled trial design, with respondents having an equal chance of being assigned to either the IG or the CG. The study assessed changes comparing the IG with the CG on four alcohol-related measurements: proportion with risky alcohol consumption, average weekly alcohol consumption, frequency of heavy episodic drinking (HED) and peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Follow-up was performed at 3 and 6 months after baseline.
Results: The study documented a significant decrease in the average weekly consumption for the IG over time but not for the CG, although the differences between the groups were non-significant. The study also found that there were significant decreases in HED over time within both groups; the differences were about equal in both groups at the 6-month follow-up. The proportion of risky drinkers decreased by about a third in both the CG and IG at the 3- and 6-month follow-ups.
Conclusions: As the differences between the groups at 6 months for all alcohol-related outcome variables were not significant, the shorter, generic brief intervention appears to be as effective as the longer one including normative feedback. However, further studies in similar naturalistic settings are warranted with delayed assessment groups as controls in order to increase our understanding of reactivity assessment in email-based interventions among students.
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