An RCT of the effect of appearance versus health messages on engagement with an alcohol reduction

Objectives: To compare the impact of appearance versus health-framed messages on engagement in a brief web-based risk screening and alcohol reduction intervention.

Design: Randomised trial delivered via Drinkaware’s website. Visitors were exposed to appearance (n = 51,588) or health-framed messages (n = 52,639) directing them towards an AUDIT-C risk screening questionnaire. Users completing this questionnaire were given feedback on their risk level and extended frame-congruent information.

Outcomes: The primary outcome is completion of the AUDIT-C questionnaire. The secondary outcome is whether the participant accessed any of four further resources.

Results: The appearance-framed message led to a small but significant increase in the number of users completing the AUDIT-C compared to the health-framed message (n = 3,537, 6.86% versus n = 3,355, 6.37%, p < 0.01). Conversely, following subsequent risk feedback, users exposed to extended health-framed information were more likely to access further resources (n = 1,146, 2.17% versus n = 942, 1.83%, p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Physical appearance-framed messages increased the likelihood of engagement with an online alcohol screening and brief intervention tool, whereas health-framed messages increased the likelihood of accessing further resources. This highlights the potential for the use of multi-level approaches in alcohol reduction interventions.

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