A study from NIHR SPHR researchers at Fuse has found that people drink less if they receive advice about alcohol from a computer, mobile phone or the internet compared to people who do not get this information, a Fuse study has found.
Around a quarter to a third of adults in England experience health risk or harm due to heavy drinking. Most of this risk and harm is preventable, if drinking is reduced. The ENGAGE project aims to understand the best way to help people recognise when they are drinking harmful levels of alcohol, and to provide support to help individuals cut down to safer levels.
Research previously funded by SPHR, a Cochrane review assessed the effectiveness of digital advice, using smartphone apps, tablets or computer programmes, to reduce heavy alcohol use. People who received digital advice reduced their drinking by an average of three standard drinks per week (1.5 pints of beer or just over a third of a bottle of wine) compared to people who didn’t receive the advice, for up to 6 months.
A further Cochrane review assessed the effectiveness of brief interventions, a structured conversation allowing a doctor, nurse, counsellor or psychologist to help someone understand that they are harming their health with their drinking and discuss ways they might cut down. This review was recently updated and found that brief interventions reduced alcohol use by 2.5 standard drinks per week (a pint of beer or just under a third of a bottle of wine), with effects lasting over a year. Few head-to-head trials have compared digital to practitioner input directly.
The ENGAGE project builds on the findings from these reviews by combining all the data in a network meta-analysis and developing an economic model. A combined evidence synthesis and value of information analysis will help policy-makers understand the relative effect size, likely duration, and active components of each intervention strategy.
It will help them to develop efficient strategies to help achieve wide scale roll out of alcohol interventions to reduce health harm. Since alcohol harms are disproportionately experienced by those in lower socio-economic status groups this work is likely to contribute to the reduction of health and social inequalities in England.