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Health

DrinksRation

What is DrinksRation?

DrinksRation is a smartphone app designed to reduce alcohol misuse in the Armed Forces through the application of digital technology and behavioural change theory. This combination means that DrinksRation and the messages we send to you are personalised around your own goals and lifestyle. This allows us to support you to make changes you want to your drinking.

Who created DrinksRation?

DrinksRation is a collaborative project between King’s Centre for Military Health Research, Combat Stress, and Lancaster University.

About

It is well known that alcohol problems are more common in the military than in the rest of the population. Levels of alcohol consumption and binge drinking (drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time) are almost twice as high. Whilst this difference could be explained by the peer pressure of being in a military unit, with others who are drinking heavily, it is surprising that levels of drinking do not seem to decrease when someone leaves the Armed Forces. Previous research has shown that people who drink heavily (both in the military and the general population) do not seem to recognise that they have a problem, so they are unlikely to change their drinking without any prompts. There may be a benefit in providing a treatment (also known as an intervention) to people when they are leaving the military, to help them to reduce their drinking, at a time when the peer pressure of military life may lessen.

There is limited evidence on what interventions or treatments might be suitable for ex-serving personnel who need to lower their drinking, but who are not dependent on alcohol. Existing research has shown that electronic interventions (such as computer or mobile phone applications), which aim to help someone lower the amount they drink, can be helpful. These treatments, which have been developed for the general population, may also be suitable for people from the military. But it is likely that some changes will need to be made.

The aim of this research is to develop an electronic intervention, which can be delivered through a mobile phone, to help people leaving the Armed Forces to lower their alcohol consumption and to drink less in a single session. There isn't a lot of research in this area so an early study would be helpful before testing the intervention on a larger scale.

There are a number of questions we want to answer in this early study; these are:
1) to look at the reasons why people who are currently in, or leaving, the Armed Forces drink heavily;
2) to use this information to design a mobile phone application that is relevant and meaningful to the ex-serving military population, and so should help them to reduce their drinking, and
3) to test if this intervention is acceptable to a small number of ex-serving personnel and to find out how they think that it could be improved.

Once these questions have been answered then it should be possible to test the intervention with a larger number of people. The benefits of this research are that it can help us understand why people in the Armed Forces drink heavily and why they don't lower their drinking when they leave. This information will be relevant to a number of organisations, such as health services and veterans' charities. It will also help us to develop a treatment that is more likely to be successful, because it will be more relevant to these individuals. There are lots of possible benefits to reducing the amount ex-service people drink; it can help to lower the risk of many conditions such as liver disease and cancer, it can improve how productive people are in their daily lives and can lower the number of times people visit their doctor with alcohol related injuries and illness. As well as benefitting the individuals, these changes could also save money for employers and public services.

Funding

Medical Research Council funded the design, development and feasibility of an app to support Armed Forces personnel who drink at a hazardous level. DrinksRation was developed with funding from this grant.