Smartphone app supports reduction of alcohol consumption

A smartphone alcohol intervention app could help people to cut down their alcohol consumption, according to a new study.

The app, which was tested on university students who had screened positive for unhealthy alcohol use in a questionnaire, resulted in them reducing their overall consumption and the number of days they drank heavily.

The authors, from Lausanne University Hospital and the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, have now made a free version of the Smaart app for Apple and Android smartphones following the trial, which is published in The BMJ today.

The participating 1,770 university students, based at four higher education institutions in Switzerland, reported consuming an average 8.59 standard alcoholic drinks a week and drinking heavily on 3.53 days a month.

They were randomly allocated to either an intervention group where they were asked to download the app or a comparison group.

Over the 12-month monitoring period, students in the intervention group reported 10% fewer standard drinks a week and 11% fewer heavy drinking days a month compared with those in the comparison group.

Students in the intervention group could use the app during the monitoring period to record their daily drinking and assess its impact on their health. The app included personalised feedback; estimated blood alcohol content and the associated risks; a self-monitoring tool; a goal setting tool; a designated driver tool; and fact sheets on the effects of alcohol on health.

Those in the intervention group used the app up to 403 times over 12 months, an average 21.2 times each.

Although the authors acknowledge some limitations to their research, they say: “Compared with the group who were not given the intervention, providing access to the app for 12 months was effective at reducing the average drinking volume of university students who had self-reported unhealthy alcohol use at baseline.”

Bertholet N, Schmutz E, Studer J et al. Effect of a smartphone intervention as a secondary prevention for university students with unhealthy alcohol use: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 17 August 2023; doi: 10.1136/bmj-2022-073713



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