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The Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 75–84 | Cite as

Personalized Feedback as a Universal Prevention Approach for College Drinking: A Randomized Trial of an e-Mail Linked Universal Web-Based Alcohol Intervention

  • Tibor P. Palfai
  • Michael Winter
  • John Lu
  • David Rosenbloom
  • Richard Saitz
Original Paper

Abstract

Alcohol use among first-year university students continues to be a central health concern. Efforts to address drinking in this population have increasingly relied on web-based interventions, which have the capacity to reach large numbers of students through a convenient and highly utilized medium. Despite evidence for the utility of this approach for reducing hazardous drinking, recent studies that have examined the effectiveness of this approach as a universal prevention strategy in campus-wide studies have produced mixed results. We sought to test the effectiveness of a web-based alcohol intervention as a universal prevention strategy for first-year students. An e-mail invitation linked to a brief, web-based survey on health behaviors was sent to all first-year students during the fall semester. Those who completed the baseline assessment were randomized to receive either a feedback-based alcohol intervention (intervention condition) or feedback about other health-related behaviors such as sleep and nutrition (control condition). A second web-based survey was used to collect follow-up drinking data 5 months later. The number of heavy drinking episodes in the previous month and alcohol-related consequences in the previous 3 months served as the primary dependent variables. Negative binomial regression analyses did not indicate a significant effect of the intervention at follow-up on either heavy drinking episodes or alcohol-related consequences. Analyses of additional drinking outcomes among the subsample of students who reported that they did not drink at baseline showed that those who received the alcohol intervention were subsequently less likely to drink alcohol. These results suggest that web-based alcohol interventions may be a potentially useful method of maintaining abstinence among underage, non-drinking students. Overall, however, results indicate that an e-mail-linked, campus-wide, web-intervention approach to address alcohol use among first-year students may have limited effectiveness as an approach to minimize hazardous drinking over the course of the year.

Keywords

Alcohol University Computer Freshmen Intervention Internet, e-Mail 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was supported in part by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Grant P60 AA013759.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tibor P. Palfai
    • 1
  • Michael Winter
    • 1
  • John Lu
    • 1
  • David Rosenbloom
    • 1
  • Richard Saitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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