A longitudinal examination of protective behavioral strategies and alcohol consumption among adult drinkers

Addict Behav. 2018 Dec:87:1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.06.017. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


Previous studies suggest that employing specific behavioral strategies when drinking can prevent excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. However, these studies have typically examined these 'protective behavioral strategies' (PBSs) in combination, limiting understanding of whether individual strategies differ in their effectiveness. Further, most existing research is cross-sectional in design, precluding the determination of causal relationships between PBS use and alcohol consumption. To address these research gaps, the present study sought to longitudinally (i) identify which individual PBSs are significantly related to reduced alcohol consumption over time and (ii) explore the effectiveness of individual PBSs among specific population groups. The sample comprised 1328 Australian adult drinkers (47% male) who completed an online survey assessing engagement in PBSs and alcohol consumption at two time points approximately four weeks apart. Reported enactment of the PBS 'Count your drinks' was associated with a significant reduction in alcohol consumption between T1 and T2. In contrast, enactment of the PBSs 'Ask a friend to let you know when you have had enough to drink', 'Put extra ice in your drink', 'Use a designated driver', and 'Leave drinking venues at a pre-determined time' was associated with an increase in alcohol consumption. The results thus suggest that many PBSs may not be effective in reducing alcohol consumption and that some may be associated with higher levels of intake. The results have implications for the development of harm-minimization campaigns designed to encourage drinkers to reduce their alcohol consumption.

Keywords: Adults; Alcohol consumption; Drinkers; Protective behavioral strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Young Adult