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Effectiveness of a Theory-Based mHealth Intervention for High-Risk Drinking in College Students

Young adults drinking alcohol continues to be a major public health concern. There have been interventions created to combat high-risk drinking such as brief motivational interventions (BMI) and personalized feedback interventions. The current study looks at a theoretically based mobile health (mHealth) smart phone app used as an intervention technique to address and prevent excessive drinking in young adults

Participants from this study came from a large, public university and included a group of mandated participants that violated campus alcohol policy along with a group of voluntary participants. Mandated participants included 141 students with 61 being assigned to BMI with smart phone app group and 41 being assigned to an in-person BMI. The BMI group completed two 50-minute sessions and the other group completed a 2-week, app-based intervention. The voluntary students included 101 participants in an Assessment-Only (AO) control group and 69 participants in the BMI with smart phone app group. The BMI with smart phone app had seven features surrounding the Transtheoretical Model, Motivational Interviewing, and Ecological Momentary Interviewing.

For the participants using the app, they opened on average 66 of the 74 messages and answered 174 educational trivia questions correctly. Over half of the students using the app agreed or strongly agreed that the app helped them to reduce alcohol consumption along with it providing useful information. Results also showed that for mandated students, peak Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of participants in the in-person BMI group increased while those using the app had a decrease in BAC. Voluntary students using the app also reported reduction in drinking. These findings give promising results that the BMI with smart phone app was effective among mandated and voluntary students and may be more effective than in-person interventions.

Take Away: This study looks at a theoretically based mobile health (mHealth) smart phone app used as an intervention to address excessive drinking in young adults. The study included a group of mandated and voluntary participants. Mandated participants were split into a group receiving an in-person brief motivational intervention (BMI) along with a group competing a 2-week, app-based intervention. Voluntary participants were split into an Assessment Only group and a group completing a 2-week, app-based intervention.  Results showed reduced drinking in both mandated and voluntary students. Over half of students agreed or strongly agreed the app helped them to reduce alcohol consumption. These findings provide results that the BMI with smart phone app was effective among mandated and voluntary students and may be more effective than in-person interventions.

Kazemi, D. M., Borsari, B., Levine, M. J., Li, S., Shehab, M., Fang, F., & Norona, J. C. (2020). Effectiveness of a Theory-Based mHealth Intervention for High-Risk Drinking in College Students. Substance Use & Misuse, 55(10), 1667-1676. doi:10.1080/10826084.2020.1756851

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