Page last updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Effectiveness of single internet or email self help intervention
A research review suggests that even a single self help session delivered over the email or internet, may help problem drinkers to change their habits. The findings suggest a relatively simple, low-cost way to motivate heavy drinkers to cut back.

Researchers analysis of 14 previously published studies found that ‘personalised-feedback interventions’ encouraged participants, many of whom were college students, to cut back their drinking after only one session. For every eight people who participated, one cut back on his or her drinking to moderate levels.

The feedback sessions essentially got participants to look at their drinking habits - how much or how often they typically drank each week - and compare them to the norm for other people their age. They also learned about the risks of heavy drinking and the recommended guidelines for “sensible” drinking.

In each study, the interventions were done via mail or the internet. Nine studies targeted college students, one was done in a workplace setting, and the rest recruited adults from the general public.

“This is the most minimum intervention possible and the results were better than we thought,” said lead researcher Heleen Riper, of the Trimbos Institute in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

It has long been unclear how to best reach problem drinkers - those who are not alcohol-dependent but have risky drinking habits, such as drinking frequently or bingeing. according to Riper, whereas many problem drinkers would resist face-to-face counseling, they may be more open to anonymous help over the internet. That means that relatively low-cost, efficient interventions could help combat a highly costly health and social problem.

Riper argued that a wide range of institutions could potentially offer personalised-feedback interventions, including large employers, universities, health insurance companies and government health agencies.

Source: American Journal of Public Health, March 2009.

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