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J Med Internet Res. 2011 Jun 30;13(2):e43. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1695.

Curbing alcohol use in male adults through computer generated personalized advice: randomized controlled trial.

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Trimbos-institute, Department of Public Mental Health, Utrecht, Netherlands.



In recent years, interventions that deliver online personalized feedback on alcohol use have been developed and appear to be a feasible way to curb heavy drinking. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) among the general adult population, however, are scarce. The present study offers an RCT of, an online personalized feedback intervention in the Netherlands.


The aim of this study was to assess the effectiveness of computer-based personalized feedback on heavy alcohol use in male adults.


Randomization stratified by age and educational level was used to assign participants to either the intervention consisting of online personalized feedback or an information-only control condition. Participants were told as a cover story that they would evaluate newly developed health education materials. Participants were males (n = 450), aged 18 to 65 years, presenting with either heavy alcohol use (> 20 units of alcohol weekly) and/or binge drinking (> 5 units of alcohol at a single occasion at least 1 day per week) in the past 6 months. They were selected with a screener from a sampling frame of 25,000 households. The primary outcome measure was the percentage of the participants that had successfully reduced their drinking levels to below the Dutch guideline threshold for at-risk drinking.


Intention-to-treat analysis showed that in the experimental condition, 42% (97/230) of the participants were successful in reducing their drinking levels to below the threshold at the 1-month follow-up as compared with 31% (67/220) in the control group (odds ratio [OR] = 1.7, number needed to treat [NNT] = 8.6), which was statistically significant (χ(2) (1) = 6.67, P = .01). At the 6-month follow-up, the success rates were 46% (105/230) and 37% (82/220) in the experimental and control conditions, respectively (OR = 1.4, NNT = 11.9), but no longer statistically significant (χ(2) (1) = 3.25, P = .07).


Personalized online feedback on alcohol consumption appears to be an effective and easy way to change unhealthy drinking patterns in adult men, at least in the short-term.

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