18-34 year olds binge drink the most and have the highest smartphone ownership

Excessive alcohol consumption is a serious public health concern. One in six adults in the U.S. is reported to binge drink, and those who binge drink tend to do so frequently and with high intensity (1). Binge (at-risk) drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men, on an occasion during the past 30 days. It has the highest prevalence and intensity among persons aged 18 to 34 years (1).

Smartphone ownership is also highest among this younger demographic, with many hours spent accessing social media networks through smartphone apps. Smartphones are an important part of the social media landscape. Activity on social networks, such as connecting and engaging in real time, is particularly characteristic to mobile use (2).

Activity on social media frequently encourages users to drink more, not less. Online peer influence has been identified as a major problem, but what if peer support could be used to encourage young people to cut back on alcohol consumption?

DrinkSmart: A social media and tracking app to reduce binge drinking behavior

DrinkSmart is a social media based smartphone application for the screening, brief intervention and treatment for binge drinking. Developed in partnership with the New Zealand government’s Alcohol Advisory Council, and based on research provided by Alcohol Policy in the United Kingdom, DrinkSmart is our proprietary online platform. It combines alcohol counselling by a trained counselor and online peer community support. It also allows the user to track the number of drinks they consume, with the over arching goal of reducing the amount of alcohol consumed in one occasion.

An online coach, called DrinkBuddy, facilitates online conversations on the DrinkSmart newsfeed. The role of DrinkBuddy is to keep the online community motivated, educated and engaged.

DrinkSmart’s impact so far

DrinkSmart was launched in October 2013. An independent evaluation was conducted in July 2014 with the aim to investigate behavioral and awareness metrics amongst users using the DrinkSmart app. At the time of the evaluation (July 2014), 1,317 people had signed up to the DrinkSmart community.

The first challenge is to track the number of alcoholic beverages consumed for 7 days. Of the 778 people who started the challenge, 673 completed it, resulting in a 87% completion rate.

81 users completed an evaluation survey. The most popular way they find out about DrinkSmart was through family, friends and social media (38%). Prior to using the application only 11% reported being fully aware of the amount of alcohol that they drunk but after using the application this rose to 42%.

DrinkSmart facilitates peer support via an online newsfeed. 57% found comments from other users helpful. 35% of respondents reported drinking less than prior to using DrinkSmart.

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More DrinkSmart data being collected

In its first year, DrinkSmart has shown promising results in changing binge drinking behavior. Peers have powerful influence over our behavior, and we are continuing to work on mobile solutions which harness peer support for positive health outcomes.

DrinkSmart is free for anyone to use. By having more users, we can better understand the impact of our social media based program to reduce binge drinking behavior. DrinkSmart is available for your iPhone, Android or via the web application. If you would like to promote the use of DrinkSmart at your university or workplace, promotional materials are available for free download on our website.

(1) Kanny, D., Y. Liu, R. D. Brewer, H. Lu. 2013. Binge Drinking — United States, 2011. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report MMWR 62(03);77-80. (2) Oulasvirta, A.,T. Rattenbury, L. Ma, E. Raita. 2011.Habits make smartphone use more pervasive. Journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 16:105-114.