Digital tool helps reduce alcohol intake: Researchers

Researchers at Linköping University have developed and evaluated a digital tool which helps individuals reduce their alcohol intake on their own, enabling you to get support from a digital support tool on your phone if you want to reduce your alcohol consumption. The study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, looked for a new way to reach those who want help to drink less.

What is the right amount of alcohol intake?

Drinking in moderation appears to be beneficial for the heart and circulatory system and may help prevent type 2 diabetes and gallstones. In most nations, excessive drinking is a leading cause of death that may be avoided. Alcohol is a factor in roughly half of all fatal automobile accidents in the US.

According to some, healthy men and women should limit their alcohol use to no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks per day.

On days when alcohol is available, the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise adults of legal drinking age should either refrain from drinking altogether or do so in moderation, consuming no more than 2 drinks per day for males and no more than 1 drink per day for women.

New study: How a digital tool helps reduce alcohol intake?

Leader of the study and is associate professor at the Department of Health, Medicine and Caring Sciences at Linköping University, Marcus Bendtsen said, “At the beginning of the study, the participants indicated that it was very important for them to reduce their alcohol consumption”. Bendtsen added, “But most indicated that they didn’t know how to do it. Those who got access to the digital support began to feel more self-assured about how they could go about actually changing their behavior”.

Stating that warning messages and communicating the risks of various behaviors aren’t enough, Marcus Bendtsen indicates that there is too little discussion about concrete methods of creating long-lasting change.

Despite the fact that the state regulates the sale of alcohol in Sweden, where the tax on alcohol is relatively high, alcohol consumption has remained at the same level for a long time. A recent data shows that around 3 in 10 adults, or 3 million Swedes, drink alcohol in such a way that it is classified as risky drinking.

The researchers looked for a new way to reach those who want help to drink less because the level of risky drinking increases the risk of diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart problems is considerably higher. Experts say risky drinkers are also at a much higher risk of other physical and psychological negative consequences, and so are family members and other people close to the drinker.

According to Marcus Bendtsen, people who want to quit smoking are encouraged and supported by those around them. But there is stigma around wanting to stop drinking alcohol. There is a common conception that one should be able to handle one’s own alcohol consumption, and many don’t seek help, even if they want to change their behavior.

One method of reaching more people who require help could be through digital support, such a smartphone app or online support. Many people can use digital technologies without the costs significantly rising. Because a digital tool may be used without a person-to-person interaction, they may also be more useful for people who do not want to use the healthcare system. The tool can be used privately, lowering the stigma associated with seeking help.

The researchers wanted to connect with people just as they were inspired to cut back on alcohol use in order to see whether their digital tool may help them do so. Researchers had recruited the participants of the study online through targeted adverts shown to people looking for information about how to drink less alcohol.

Participants who agreed to take part in the study were separated into two groups at random. The new digital tool was immediately made available to one group. The other group was given access to resources already available on the web and advised to use their own initiative to cut back on consumption. The digital instrument was later made available to them.

Related: What are acceptable amounts of alcohol intake?

Every Sunday, a message was sent to those who were promptly offered the digital help. The letter encouraged individuals to evaluate their alcohol usage over the previous week in an unbiased manner. Participants who revealed their drinking received feedback and access to a number of tools after doing so. Among other things, the tools assisted participants in setting personal objectives and monitoring their alcohol intake over time.

Additionally, participants had the opportunity to learn more about the dangers to their own health and the risks to society associated with drinking while drunk. The participants had the option to write notes to themselves and decide when to read them. These notes may have included reminders to cut back on drinking on a particular day or encouraging comments about why they wanted to drink less.

After four months of use, it showed out that the impact of the digital support tool was similar to that of other digital interventions from international studies and slightly superior to that of the evidence for face-to-face interventions.

“Those who had access to the digital tool had roughly 25 percent lower alcohol consumption than the group which didn’t, which is a slightly larger effect than we expected. This kind of tool won’t change the overall societal situation when it comes to alcohol consumption, but it is a very good tool for individuals who want to change their own lives,” says Marcus Bendtsen.

For those who feel the need for the tool, the researchers are currently developing an app. Additionally, they wish to modify the program to meet user needs. The study’s subjects ranged in age from 18 to 80, and there was a wide variety in their reasons for drinking. The researchers are also doing health economic analyses to figure out the impact of widespread usage of the tool on healthcare spending and quality of life over a 30–40 year timeframe.

The Swedish Alcohol Retailing Monopoly’s Alcohol Research Council raised funds for the study. Open access publications have been paid funded by Linköping University.

So, if you now would like to do something about your glass and see how many units you can drink in one evening, you can start with the Swedish tool.

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