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Curtin research reveals effective means to reduce undergraduate drinking

Media release

New Curtin University of Technology research has shown that using the web could reduce drinking by undergraduate students.

Recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a prestigious journal from the American Medical Association, the research was conducted by Mr Jonathan Hallett (Project Manager), Professor Peter Howat, Professor Bruce Maycock and Associate Professor Alexandra McManus from Curtin’s School of Public Health and Dr Kypros Kypri from University of Newcastle.

The study found that heavy undergraduate drinkers who received intervention through a website drank 17 per cent less alcohol than control subjects one month after screening, and 11 per cent less after six months.

“The differences in overall alcohol consumption were mainly driven by reductions in the frequency of drinking,” Mr Hallett said.

“Small reductions in the amount of alcohol consumed per drinking episode were also observed, and we also noted that the intervention prompted students with unhealthy alcohol use to seek help to moderate their drinking.”

Mr Hallett said the research findings showed this approach was an effective way to positively reach out to student drinkers who may not know the dangers of drinking.

“University students drink more heavily than their non-student peers and are often unaware that their drinking is risky and exceeds normal levels,” he said.

“Our study has shown that web-based screening and intervention can produce significant benefits and is acceptable to student drinkers.

“The cost of implementing this form of intervention is also relatively modest, with the intervention program available free for non-profit purposes. It could be extended to other settings, including high schools, general practices and hospitals.

“We can be optimistic that widespread application of this approach would produce benefits in modifying the behaviour of student drinkers.”

In the study the intervention consisted of 10 minutes of motivational assessment and personalised feedback through a website called THRIVE (Tertiary Health Research Intervention via Email). Students found THRIVE to be easy to complete and personally relevant. Control subjects received only screening.

Contact:  Jonathan Hallett; School of Public Health; Curtin; 08 9266 7021; j.hallett@curtin.edu.au