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From the pub to the web - how much is too much?


The country’s first interactive website to help students cut down on alcohol has launched at Leeds. If successful, it could be rolled out across the UK and beyond.

The e-UNICAL project will use tailored online feedback based on reported alcohol consumption to help students make informed decisions about their drinking. It aims to reduce consumption by ten per cent in two years, following feedback from the UNIQOLL student experience survey which showed that, in common with all young adults, some students had a high intake of alcohol.

“There’s growing interest in the health professions in using online resources to change the way people behave,” said principal investigator and project manager Bridgette Bewick from the psychological therapies research centre. “The widespread availability of low-cost IT makes the internet a great potential source for instigating change.”

Three hundred student volunteers will feed information on their drinking habits into the website, and get personalised information on how many units they’re consuming and the risks associated with drinking too much. Volunteers will get feedback not only on how much they are drinking compared to a sensible number of units, but also in relation to their fellow students. “Students tend to overestimate how much their peers are drinking,” said Bridgette. “Giving students personalised feedback that they’re in a high-risk category can act as a wake-up call.” Feedback will be given on students’ perceptions of how drinking is impacting on their health, their studies, and - a top priority for students - their finances.

The website, built by the University’s information systems services department, will go live in March. “If the trial is successful in reducing alcohol consumption and binge drinking it will provide an effective and low-cost tool that could be used not only by the University of Leeds but also by student populations across the UK and Europe,” said Bridgette. The e-UNICAL project was launched thanks to a grant from the European Advisory Research Board.

Claire Jones | alfa
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