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Smartphone-based alcohol interventions: A systematic review on the role of notifications in changing behaviors toward alcohol

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • C. Williamson
  • K. White
  • R.J. Rona
  • A. Simms
  • N.T. Fear
  • L. Goodwin
  • D. Murphy
  • D. Leightley
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Substance Abuse
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)1231-1244
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date7/06/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Background: Smartphone-based interventions are increasingly being used to facilitate positive behavior change, including reducing alcohol consumption. However, less is known about the effects of notifications to support this change, including intervention engagement and adherence. The aim of this review was to assess the role of notifications in smartphone-based interventions designed to support, manage, or reduce alcohol consumption. Methods: Five electronic databases were searched to identify studies meeting inclusion criteria: (1) studies using a smartphone-based alcohol intervention, (2) the intervention used notifications, and (3) published between 1st January 2007 and 30th April 2021 in English. PROSPERO was searched to identify any completed, ongoing, or planned systematic reviews and meta-analyses of relevance. The reference lists of all included studies were searched. Results: Overall, 14 papers were identified, reporting on 10 different interventions. The strength of the evidence regarding the role and utility of notifications in changing behavior toward alcohol of the reviewed interventions was inconclusive. Only one study drew distinct conclusions about the relationships between notifications and app engagement, and notifications and behavior change. Conclusions: Although there are many smartphone-based interventions to support alcohol reduction, this review highlights a lack of evidence to support the use of notifications (such as push notifications, alerts, prompts, and nudges) used within smartphone interventions for alcohol management aiming to promote positive behavior change. Included studies were limited due to small sample sizes and insufficient follow-up. Evidence for the benefits of smartphone-based alcohol interventions remains promising, but the efficacy of using notifications, especially personalized notifications, within these interventions remain unproven.