Outcomes of the Drink Less alcohol reduction smartphone app trial

Alcohol consumption is responsible for approximately 3.3 million deaths worldwide each year and more than 10 million people in the UK regularly drink above recommended guidelines.

Smartphone apps are low cost and have a wide reach.

To now, few health smartphone apps have been evaluated with a consequent lack of information on whether they work and, if so, their mechanisms of action.

NIHR SPHR researchers at UCL have sought to change that with the development and testing of the Drink Less smartphone app (drinklessalcohol.com). The app includes five modules each focussing on a different behaviour change technique.

Groups of users were randomly given intensive or minimal versions of the different techniques and the effectiveness of each was measured by comparing levels of drinking before and after using the app. Nearly 700 users were recruited to the trial.

On average people logged-in 12 times and drank four fewer units of alcohol at the end of using the app compared with the start.

People who received a more intensive version of a technique did not reduce their alcohol consumption significantly more than people who got a less intensive version of the same technique, however combinations of specific techniques led to improved alcohol outcomes with greater improvements seen where users had the intensive versions of each of the techniques.

Findings from this trial will be submitted for publication. The researchers will go on to test these combinations further in a subsequent trial and determine whether an app can provide an effective alternative or addition to the help people usually receive for alcohol reduction.