Delivering Personalized Protective Behavioral Drinking Strategies via a Smartphone Intervention: a Pilot Study

Renee O’Donnell, Ben Richardson, Matthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, Petra K. Staiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Smartphone-based interventions are a potentially effective way to minimize alcohol-related harm in young adult, non-dependent drinkers. This pilot study is the first to evaluate the benefits and feasibility of a personalized alcohol harm-minimization intervention delivered via smartphones. Methods: Within a single-blind, randomized controlled design, 45 young adults were randomly assigned to either the intervention app (n = 25; 18 females; Mage = 21.36 years, SDage = 4.15 years) or the control app (n = 20; 18 females; Mage = 22.75; SDage = 4.41). The two primary outcomes were frequency of risky drinking and drinking-related harms, and the secondary outcome was frequency of protective behavioral strategies (PBS) use. All outcomes were measured at baseline and immediately post-intervention. Using the Enlight framework [1], usability was evaluated via structured one-on-one phone interviews with a subgroup of six participants from the intervention group (3 females; Mage = 19.5 years, SDage = 1.64). Results: There was no significant reduction in the primary outcomes from baseline to post-intervention across the groups. For the secondary outcome, the application of PBS within drinking contexts increased at follow-up for those in the intervention group but not for control participants. End-users rated the app as highly usable but had some concerns with repetition of the app-recommended strategies. Conclusions: This intervention, designed to reduce risky drinking behaviors among young adults, was rated as highly usable and was shown to increase the application of harm minimization strategies within drinking contexts. While the intervention and its delivery show promise, it did not appear to mitigate risky drinking behaviors. Implications of this research and future directions are discussed. Trial Registration: This trial is registered at the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry: BLINDED.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)401-414
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Harm minimization
  • Outcomes
  • Pilot
  • Risky drinking
  • Smartphone intervention
  • Usability
  • Young adults

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