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Providing web-based feedback and social norms information to reduce student alcohol intake: a multisite investigation

Bewick, Bridgette M; West, Robert; Gill, Jan S; O'May, Fiona; Mulhern, Brendan; Barkham, Michael; Hill, Andrew J


Bridgette M Bewick

Robert West

Jan S Gill

Fiona O'May

Brendan Mulhern

Michael Barkham

Andrew J Hill



Unhealthy alcohol use among university students is cause for concern, yet the level of help seeking behavior for alcohol use is low within the student population. Electronic brief interventions delivered via the Internet present an alternative to traditional treatments and could enable the delivery of interventions on a population basis. Further evidence is needed of the effectiveness of Internet-delivered interventions and of their generalizability across educational institutions.


Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness across 4 UK universities of a Web-based intervention for student alcohol use.


In total, 1112 participants took part. Participants were stratified by educational institution, gender, age group, year of study, and self-reported weekly consumption of alcohol and randomly assigned to either the control arm or to the immediate or delayed intervention arms. Intervention participants gained access to the intervention between weeks 1 to 7 or weeks 8 to 15, respectively. The intervention provided electronic personalized feedback and social norms information on drinking behavior accessed by logging on to a website. Participants registered interest by completing a brief screening questionnaire and were then asked to complete 4 further assessments across the 24 weeks of the study. Assessments included a retrospective weekly drinking diary, the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and a readiness-to-change algorithm. The outcome variable was the number of units of alcohol consumed in the last week. The effect of treatment arm and time on units consumed last week and average units consumed per drinking occasion were investigated using repeated measures multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA). In addition, the data were modeled using a longitudinal regression with time points clustered within students.


MANCOVA revealed a main effect of time on units of alcohol consumed over the last week. A longitudinal regression model showed an effect of assessment across time predicting that participants who completed at least 2 assessments reduced their drinking. The model predicted an additional effect of being assigned to an intervention arm, an effect that increased across time. Regression analysis predicted that being male or being assigned to an intervention arm increased the odds of not completing all assessments. The number of units of alcohol consumed over the last week at registration, age, university educational institution, and readiness to change were not predictive of completion.


Delivering an electronic personalized feedback intervention to students via the Internet can be effective in reducing weekly alcohol consumption. The effect does not appear to differ by educational institution. Our model suggested that monitoring alone is likely to reduce weekly consumption over 24 weeks but that consumption could be further reduced by providing access to a Web-based intervention. Further research is needed to understand the apparent therapeutic effect of monitoring and how this can be utilized to enhance the effectiveness of brief Web-based interventions


Bewick, B. M., West, R., Gill, J. S., O'May, F., Mulhern, B., Barkham, M., & Hill, A. J. (2010). Providing web-based feedback and social norms information to reduce student alcohol intake: a multisite investigation. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 12, e59.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2010
Deposit Date Feb 18, 2015
Publicly Available Date Mar 11, 2020
Journal Journal of Medical Internet Research
Print ISSN 1439-4456
Electronic ISSN 1438-8871
Publisher Journal of Medical Internet Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Pages e59
Keywords Students ; eHealth; brief intervention; alcohol; web-based interventions; health and society; health and education
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Providing Web-Based Feedback and Social Norms Information to Reduce Student Alcohol Intake: A Multisite Investigation (203 Kb)

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This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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