A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of combinations of 'why to reduce' and 'how to reduce' alcohol harm-reduction communications



Pettigrew S, Booth L, Jongenelis MI, Brennan E, Chikritzhs T, Hasking P, Miller P, Hastings G & Wakefield M (2021) A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of combinations of 'why to reduce' and 'how to reduce' alcohol harm-reduction communications. Addictive Behaviors, 121, Art. No.: 107004.

Introduction Alcohol is a major source of harm worldwide. The aim of this study was to experimentally assess the effects of exposing Australian adult drinkers to combinations of ‘why to reduce’ and ‘how to reduce’ alcohol harm-reduction messages. Methods Three online surveys were administered over six weeks: Time 1 at baseline (n = 7,995), Time 2 at three weeks post-baseline (n = 4,588), and Time 3 at six weeks post-baseline (n = 2,687). Participants were randomly assigned to one of eight conditions: (1) a control condition; (2) a ‘why to reduce’ television advertisement; (3–5) one of three ‘how to reduce’ messages referring to the following protective behavioral strategies (PBSs): Keep count of your drinks, Decide how many drinks and stick to it, It’s okay to say no; and (6–8) the television advertisement combined with each PBS message individually. Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted to determine effects of condition assignment on changes over time in attempts to reduce alcohol consumption and amount of alcohol consumed. Results Participants assigned to the ‘TV ad’ and ‘TV ad + Keep count of your drinks PBS’ conditions reported significant increases in attempts to reduce alcohol consumption. Only participants assigned to the ‘TV ad + Keep count of your drinks PBS’ condition exhibited a significant reduction in alcohol consumed (−0.87 drinks per person per week). Conclusions Well-executed ‘why to reduce’ alcohol harm-reduction advertisements can encourage drinkers to attempt to reduce their alcohol consumption. These ads may be effectively supplemented by specific ‘how to reduce’ messages designed to encourage drinkers to monitor their intake.

Alcohol; Harm reduction; Television advertising; Social marketing; Protective behavioral strategies

Addictive Behaviors: Volume 121

FundersNational Health and Medical Research Council
Publication date31/10/2021
Publication date online03/06/2021
Date accepted by journal31/05/2021
PublisherElsevier BV

People (1)


Professor Gerard Hastings
Professor Gerard Hastings

Emeritus Professor, Institute for Social Marketing