Effectiveness of a digital intervention versus alcohol information for online help-seekers in Sweden: a randomised controlled trial

Marcus Bendtsen, Katarina Åsberg, Jim McCambridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: The ubiquity of Internet connectivity, and widespread unmet needs, requires investigations of digital interventions for people seeking help with their drinking. The objective of this study was to test the effectiveness of a digital alcohol intervention compared to existing online resources for help seekers.

METHODS: This parallel randomised controlled trial included 2129 risky drinkers with access to a mobile phone and aged 18 years or older. Randomised sub-studies investigated consent procedures and control group design. Simple computerised randomisation was used. Participants were aware of allocation after randomisation; research personnel were not. The digital intervention was designed around weekly monitoring of alcohol consumption followed by feedback and tools for behaviour change. Primary outcomes were total weekly consumption (TWC) and frequency of heavy episodic drinking (HED), measured 2 and 4 months post-randomisation.

RESULTS: Between 25/04/2019 and 26/11/2020, 2129 participants were randomised (intervention: 1063, control: 1066). Negative binomial regression was used to contrast groups, with both Bayesian and maximum likelihood inference. The posterior median incidence rate ratio (IRR) of TWC was 0.89 (95% CI = 0.81;0.99, 98.2% probability of effect, P-value = 0.033) at 2 months among 1557 participants and 0.77 (95% CI = 0.69;0.86, > 99.9% probability of effect, P-value < 0.001) at 4 months among 1429 participants. For HED, the IRR was 0.83 (95% CI = 0.75;0.93, > 99.9% probability of effect, P-value = 0.0009) at 2 months among 1548 participants and 0.71 (95% CI = 0.63;0.79, probability of effect > 99.9%, P-value < 0.0001) at 4 months among 1424 participants. Analyses with imputed data were not markedly different.

CONCLUSIONS: A digital alcohol intervention produced self-reported behaviour change among online help seekers in the general population. The internal and external validity of this trial is strong, subject to carefully considered study limitations arguably inherent to trials of this nature. Limitations include higher than anticipated attrition to follow-up and lack of blinding.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: The trial was prospectively registered ( ISRCTN48317451 ).

Original languageEnglish
Article number176
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s).


  • Alcohol Drinking/epidemiology
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cell Phone
  • Humans
  • Self Report
  • Sweden/epidemiology

Cite this