Personalized Feedback On Drinking Behaviors Could Reduce Alcohol Misuse

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 11 2009 12:44 PM

If students are given personalized feedback on their drinking behavior and the social norms associated with the problem, it could help them reduce alcohol misuse, according to a Cochrane Systematic Review.

Many social science researches have claimed that students tend to overestimate the amount of alcohol that their peers consume.

And such a misconception causes many students to have misguided views about whether their own behavior is normal and may contribute to the 1.8 million alcohol related deaths every year.

Thus, the researchers have claimed that social norms interventions, which provide feedback about own and peer-drinking behaviors, could help deal with these misconceptions.

They analysed data from 22 trials that together included 7,275 college and university students, mostly studying in the US.

It was found that students who were provided with personalized feedback via the Internet or individual face-to-face sessions drank less often, and indulged in less binge drinking than those in control groups.

Web-based feedback also resulted in significant reductions in blood alcohol content, and alcohol-related problems.

However, group counseling and mailed feedback failed to be effective compared to control interventions, despite researchers saying that further studies comparing the different ways of providing social normative feedback are required.

"We can't make direct comparisons between the different interventions, but based on a small number of studies web-based interventions would certainly seem to be a cost-effective option for reducing alcohol misuse," said lead researcher Maria Teresa Moreira, from the School of Health and Social Care at Oxford Brookes University in the UK.

She added: "We know that social norms have a powerful impact on thought and behavior, so changing people's perceptions about what is normal can really help. Most of the effects lasted for a few months, but some lasted over a year, particularly for the web-based feedback."