Background: Brief alcohol interventions are one approach for reducing drinking among youth, but may vary in effectiveness depending on the type of alcohol assessments used to measure effects.
Objectives: To conduct a meta-analysis that examined the effectiveness of brief alcohol interventions for adolescents and young adults, with particular emphasis on exploring variability in effects across outcome measurement characteristics.
Method: Eligible studies were those using an experimental or quasi-experimental design to examine the effects of a brief alcohol intervention on a post-intervention alcohol use measure for youth aged 11-30. A comprehensive literature review identified 190 unique samples that were included in the meta-analysis. Taking a Bayesian approach, we used random-effects multilevel models to estimate the average effect and model variability across outcome measurement types.
Results: Brief alcohol interventions led to significant reductions in self-reported alcohol use among adolescents (g = 0.25, 95% credible interval [CrI 0.13, 0.37]) and young adults (g = 0.15, 95% CrI [0.12, 0.18]). These results were consistent across outcomes with varying reference periods, but varied across outcome construct type and assessment instruments. Among adolescents, effects were larger when measured using the Timeline Followback; among young adults, effects were smaller when measured using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test.
Conclusion: The strength of the beneficial effects of brief alcohol interventions on youth's alcohol use may vary depending upon the outcome measure utilized. Nevertheless, significant effects were observed across measures. Although effects were modest in size, they were clinically significant and show promise for interrupting problematic alcohol use trajectories among youth.
Keywords: Adolescents; alcohol use; brief alcohol intervention; meta-analysis; systematic review; youth.