Web-based tailored interventions provide users with information that is adapted to their individual characteristics and needs. Randomized controlled trials assessing the effects of tailored alcohol self-help programs among adults are scarce. Furthermore, it is a challenge to develop programs that can hold respondents’ attention in online interventions.
To assess whether a 3-session, Web-based tailored intervention is effective in reducing alcohol intake in high-risk adult drinkers and to compare 2 computer-tailoring feedback strategies (alternating vs summative) on behavioral change, dropout, and appreciation of the program.
A single-blind randomized controlled trial was conducted with an experimental group and a control group (N=448) in Germany in 2010-2011. Follow-up took place after 6 months. Drinking behavior, health status, motivational determinants, and demographics were assessed among participants recruited via an online access panel. The experimental group was divided into 2 subgroups. In the alternating condition (n=132), the tailored feedback was split into a series of messages discussing individual topics offered while the respondent was filling out the program. Participants in the summative condition (n=181) received all advice at once after having answered all questions. The actual texts were identical for both conditions. The control group (n=135) only filled in 3 questionnaires. To identify intervention effects, logistic and linear regression analyses were conducted among complete cases (n=197) and after using multiple imputation.
Among the complete cases (response rate: 197/448, 44.0%) who did not comply with the German national guideline for low-risk drinking at baseline, 21.1% of respondents in the experimental group complied after 6 months compared with 5.8% in the control group (effect size=0.42; OR 2.65, 95% CI 1.14-6.16, P=.02). The experimental group decreased by 3.9 drinks per week compared to 0.4 drinks per week in the control group, but this did not reach statistical significance (effect size=0.26; beta=−0.12, 95% CI −7.96 to 0.03, P=.05). Intention-to-treat analyses also indicated no statistically significant effect. Separate analyses of the 2 experimental subgroups showed no differences in intervention effects. The dropout rate during the first visit to the intervention website was significantly lower in the alternating condition than in the summative condition (OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.08-0.60, P=.003). Program appreciation was comparable for the 2 experimental groups.
Complete case analyses revealed that Web-based tailored feedback can be an effective way to reduce alcohol intake among adults. However, this effect was not confirmed when applying multiple imputations. There was no indication that one of the tailoring strategies was more effective in lowering alcohol intake. Nevertheless, the lower attrition rates we found during the first visit suggest that the version of the intervention with alternating questions and advice may be preferred.
International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 91623132; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN91623132 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6J4QdhXeG).