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Real-Time Mobile Monitoring of Drinking Episodes in Young Adult Heavy Drinkers: Development and Comparative Survey Study

Heavy drinking has been found to be common throughout the young adult population and may lead to alcohol-related morbidity and mortality. Previous research mostly looks at binge drinking in a retrospective manner. The current study attempts to determine the feasibility of using a smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to gain real time information about binge drinking in young adults.

The mean age of the 83 participants recruited was 25.4 and they binge drank on average 23.2% of the days during the previous month. After recruitment, the mobile EMA application was installed on each of their personal smartphones and they were trained on how to use the application. The application would assess real-time drinking behavior, subjective responses, and contextual factors such as location and presence of others. The participants completed a self-initiated baseline survey before their first drink and after finishing their first drink. Subsequent surveys were automatic at varying time intervals with one final survey the following day.

Results showed that 71% of participants engaged in binge drinking and consumed on average 7.3 alcohol beverages during the study. The response rate for the EMA prompts was 87.2%. Overall, the participants rated satisfaction of the mobile survey high and did not think completing the surveys were time consuming or intrusive. The results also show reported consequences were less energy after drinking, drinking larger amounts than anticipated, and saying or doing something embarrassing as a result of drinking. No serious adverse events were reported throughout the study. These findings  provide important preliminary support for using a smartphone-based EMA to gain real-time information about alcohol use and to also safely monitor drinking during heavy drinking episodes.

Take Away: Most research surrounding binge drinking is done in a retrospective manner. The current study attempts to determine the feasibility of using a smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to gain real time information about binge drinking in young adults. 83 students were recruited with the application installed on their personal smartphone. They completed surveys before, during, and after a binge drinking episode. The study found the response rate for the prompts was 87.2% and participants rated overall satisfaction of the mobile survey high. This study shows important preliminary support for using a smartphone-based EMA to gain real-time information about alcohol use and to also safely monitor drinking during heavy drinking episodes.

Fridberg, D. J., Faria, J., Cao, D., & King, A. C. (2019). Real-Time Mobile Monitoring of Drinking Episodes in Young Adult Heavy Drinkers: Development and Comparative Survey Study. JMIR MHealth and UHealth, 7(11). doi: 10.2196/13765

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