Text and photo messaging used to tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture

23 December 2013

Dr Carol Emslie, Leader of the Substance Use and Misuse Research Group in GCUs Institute for Applied Health Research

Dr Carol Emslie, Leader of the Substance Use and Misuse Research Group in GCUs Institute for Applied Health Research

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are contributing to a major study with men across Scotland who will receive regular mobile phone text and photo messages aimed at encouraging them to think about their level of drinking and the many benefits that could arise from changing their habits.

The Texting to Reduce Alcohol Misuse project, funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research (NIHR PHR) Programme, hopes to recruit around 700 men aged between 25 and 44 across the Greater Glasgow, Tayside, Fife and Forth Valley.

Dr Carol Emslie, Leader of the Substance Use and Misuse Research Group in GCU’s Institute for Applied Health Research, will begin recruiting men in Glasgow to the study in March 2014.

She said: "This is a timely project, given that alcohol-related death rates doubled for men in Scotland in this age group between 1991 and 2009.
“Sending text messages is a low cost way to attempt to reduce drinking among men living in deprived areas. If the project is successful, it could be rolled out on a larger scale, and so eventually have a substantial impact on binge drinking in Scotland."

Men who join the study would receive regular text and photo messages for three months, following which there will be a phone interview to assess whether there has been any immediate change in behaviour. They will be asked again after a further nine months whether there has been any longer-term change in behaviour.

Letters of invitation to join the study will be sent out from GP practices while the study team will also be going out into the community to recruit volunteers.

The trial will be led by Professor Iain Crombie at the University of Dundee and also involves colleagues from the Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen, Newcastle, St Andrews and Melbourne.

Professor Crombie said: “We are hoping to work with men who have settled into a drinking pattern where they will have consumed more than eight units of alcohol on two occasions in the previous month. The standard definition of binge drinking is eight units in a session.

“The basic idea is not to preach to them or tell them what they do. Many alcohol interventions are very 'in your face' and we don't see that as the way to go.

“What the messaging in this study will do is encourage them to think about what they are drinking, why they do it, and about how it fits with the rest of their lives.

“Text messaging is an attractive medium to use to deliver those messages. There is evidence that it can be effective, and our study will robustly test that.”

GCU’s Professor Brian Williams, Director of the Nursing Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Unit, has been a major contributor to developing the project.