International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 5, pp 592–604 | Cite as

Testing an Online, Theory-Based Intervention to Reduce Pre-drinking Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol-Related Harm in Undergraduates: a Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Kim M. CaudwellEmail author
  • Barbara A. Mullan
  • Martin S. Hagger



The present study tested the efficacy of a theory-based online intervention comprising motivational (autonomy support) and volitional (implementation intention) components to reduce pre-drinking alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm.


Undergraduate students (N = 202) completed self-report measures of constructs from psychological theories, pre-drinking alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related harm at baseline and were randomly assigned to one of four intervention conditions in a 2 (autonomy support: present/absent) × 2 (implementation intention: present/absent) design. Participants completed follow-up measures of all variables at 4 weeks post-intervention. All participants received national guidelines on alcohol consumption and an e-mail summary of intervention content at its conclusion. Participants also received weekly SMS messages in the 4-week post-intervention period restating content relevant to their intervention condition.


Neither statistically significant main effect for either the autonomy support or implementation intention intervention components nor an interaction effect was found on the outcome measures. However, statistically significant reductions in pre-drinking alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm were observed across all groups at follow-up, when compared to baseline.


Reductions in outcome measures were likely related to elements common to each condition (i.e., provision of national guidelines, assessment of outcome measures, e-mail summary, and SMS messages), rather than motivational and volitional components.


Alcohol consumption Pre-drinking Alcohol-related harm Self-determination theory Autonomy support Action phase model Implementation intention 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

The study was approved by the Curtin University Ethics Committee (Approval Number HR185/2014/AR1) and pre-registered with the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12614001102662).

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine Research Group, School of Psychology, Faculty of Health SciencesCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia

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