Health Information Week: Innovations for preventing illness

Kyle Brady
Friday 5 July 2019

In this final post in our series for Health Information Week, we are highlighting a report [1] that looks into the effects of using text message interventions to reduce binge drinking. The report is co-authored by Gerry Humphris from the School of Medicine.

Binge drinking, the report explains, is more prevalent amongst disadvantaged groups, and especially so amongst young to middle-aged disadvantaged men. There have been many attempts to introduce ‘brief interventions’, but few have attempted to target particular disadvantaged groups.

“Alcohol misuse is a major contributor to inequalities in health. After several years of decline, alcohol consumption has recently started to increase. There is a pressing need for an effective, low-cost intervention to tackle binge drinking in disadvantaged groups.” (Humphris, et al.

 The study recruited participants from Tayside, Fife, Forth Valley, and Glasgow.

“A striking finding is that 93% of the alcohol that the participants drank was consumed in binge-drinking sessions. This could partly explain why disadvantaged men, who do not drink more heavily than more affluent men, experience much higher rates of alcohol-related harm” (Humphris, et al.

The study itself involved sending text messages to the participants, delivered by a computer programme. The messages included a mixture of narrative based texts involving fictional characters who were themselves going through behavioural changes, and also more informational messages, some of which were humorous.

The report concludes that the intervention was successful in terms of recruiting participants and in terms of engagement, with almost 92% replying to the text messages. The report does also conclude that modest improvements to consumption were reported, which reflects again the difficulties of changing health behaviours is disadvantaged men.

“Several studies have investigated barriers to changing health behaviours in disadvantaged groups, particularly for smoking cessation, but evidence on barriers to reducing alcohol consumption and binge drinking is sparse. Future research should urgently address this issue.” (Humphris, et al.

The full report is archive in the St Andrews Research Repository –
The report was originally published here –

[1] Crombie, Iain K. ; Irvine, Linda ; Williams, Brian ; Sniehotta, Falko F. ; Petrie, Dennis J. ; Jones, Claire ; Norrie, John ; Evans, Josie MM ; Emslie, Carol ; Rice, Peter M. ; Slane, Peter W. ; Humphris, Gerry ; Ricketts, Ian W. ; Melson, Ambrose J. ; Donnan, Peter T. ; McKenzie, Andrew ; Huang, Li ; Achison, Marcus. / Text message intervention to reduce frequency of binge drinking among disadvantaged men : the TRAM RCT. In: Public Health Research. 2018 ; Vol. 6, No. 6.

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