Drink Less app

Development and evaluation of a theory and evidence-based smartphone application to reduce excessive alcohol consumption

UCL team members
Professor Robert West, Professor Susan Michie, Dr Jamie Brown, Dr Claire Garnett
NIHR School for Public Health Research
Project start and end dates
Jan 2018 - July 2019
Project website

Drink Less app development

Project details

Drink Less was developed as an evidence- and theory-based alcohol-reduction app for the general population of drinkers with a robust evidence base, and rigorous development and evaluation strategy. The development and initial evaluation was funded by NIHR SPHR, UKCTAS, SSA and CRUK. 

The initial development of the app was guided by theory and a number of sources of evidence and the app was professionally designed and built. Usability studies were conducted with potential users and changes were made to the app in light of these findings to ensure the app was easy to use and provided a good user experience. 

Drink Less was developed for iOS devices and structured around goal setting – an activity to engage the users and allow experimental manipulation of other modules. There were five other modules, each focusing on a different behaviour change technique or intervention component – normative feedback; self-monitoring; action planning; cognitive bias re-training; and identity change. These five modules were evaluated in a randomised factorial screening trial as part of the Multiphase Optimisation Strategy (MOST), a sequenced, experimental approach to intervention development and evaluation.  Treatment-seeking individuals who were excessive drinkers found Drink Less to be acceptable and used the app frequently. The randomised factorial trial found that the combinations of Normative Feedback and Cognitive Bias Re-training, and Self-monitoring and Action Planning produced modest improvements in alcohol-related outcomes after four weeks. 

This project will build directly on previous research and will conduct the next step in the MOST approach - optimisation of the intervention.

The project will involve three work packages 1) optimisation of the Drink Less app; 2) user testing to improve acceptability and usability, and 3) development of a funding proposal for a confirmatory trial. The optimisation of the Drink Less app will involve collating the evidence from the randomised factorial screening trial and the Cochrane systematic review of digital alcohol interventions to identify the intervention components to include or remove from the app. The user testing will improve the acceptability of the optimised version of Drink Less and will include input from users of varying socio-economic status (SES) to maximise the appeal and usability of the app across the social spectrum. The third work package will involve meetings between the wider collaborative team to plan and submit a funding bid for a confirmatory trial of the optimised app. PHE collaborators will provide insight during meetings into the app’s long-term adoption and help to support its implementation in practice.