Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Digital iDEAS trial launched to help reduce alcohol intake

20 August 2020

A new trial offering digital support to help people reduce their alcohol consumption has been launched by researchers Dr Garnett and Dr Oldham (Behavioural Science & Health). With the apparent rise in drinking during the UK lockdown, investigators say the iDEAS study is timely.


Since January 2016, UK Government guidelines have recommended that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. However, since the lockdown began in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have reported consuming more alcohol than normal.

The effects of excessive drinking outside of the advised guidelines are wide-ranging and can have short and long-term effects on a person’s health. Potentially serious health conditions can result from drinking too much, including heart and liver disease and some types of cancer; as well as negative impacts on weight, erectile function and mental health.

Digital support, such as apps and websites, for reducing alcohol intake are thought to overcome some of the barriers encountered by traditional face-to-face support and may have potential for decreasing alcohol consumption. 

The iDEAS trial is seeking over 5000 volunteers nationally to test two digital support tools for drinkers who want to cut down on their alcohol intake.

Senior Investigator Dr Claire Garnett (UCL Behavioural Science & Health) said: “There is currently little research comparing the effectiveness of different types of digital technologies.  With the design of this randomised controlled trial, participants will be recommended one of two types of digital support for the reduction of alcohol consumption so we can determine which is more effective.”

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), people who sign up for the study will be offered a type of digital support to use, and asked to anonymously complete four online questionnaires over six months. Participants who complete the trial will receive up to £36 in Amazon vouchers and will have contributed to potentially health-changing research.

Lead Investigator Dr Melissa Oldham (UCL Behavioural Science & Health) added: “These findings will provide evidence on the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different types of digital support and will inform the recommendations we can make for alcohol reduction.”



‘Wine bottle of wine red wine cup’ Credit: Vinotecarium from Pixabay. CC by 2.0.

Media contact

Henry Killworth

Tel: +44 (0) 7881 833274

E: h.killworth [at] ucl.ac.uk