A combined web based intervention and ecological momentary intervention for reducing alcohol use among incoming first-year university students: Results from a three-arm randomised controlled trial
Background: The transition from high school to university is associated with increased alcohol use and harm. Web-based interventions (WBIs) and ecological momentary interventions (EMIs) are two methods that have had some success in reducing alcohol use among university students and may be particularly effective if implemented during the transition to university. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effectiveness of a combined WBI and EMI to reduce alcohol use among incoming university students. Methods: Incoming first-year students (n = 783, in 2018 and 2019) were randomized into either a WBI + EMI, WBI-only, or an assessment-only condition. All participants completed online questionnaires before university, after their first and second semester, and reported their alcohol use fortnightly throughout their first year. Those in the WBI + EMI and WBI conditions received online feedback about their drinking (i.e., the WBI) immediately following the pre-university survey. Those in the WBI + EMI were also sent eight EMI messages to their mobile phones during Orientation Week and six EMI messages across the academic year aimed at reducing alcohol harm. Results: There were no significant differences between the conditions in Orientation Week drinking, academic year drinking (both “typical” semester or fortnightly drinking), or alcohol-related harms. Conclusion: A WBI + EMI intervention aimed at the transition to university did not reduce university students’ alcohol use. The transition, however, continues to be a period of serious harm where students drink more than any other period.