New smartphone app helps to cut alcohol consumption in UK Army veterans

Apparently alcohol misuse is higher in the UK Armed Forces than in the general population.

And it persists after a person leaves the service, particularly with those who are seeking help for a mental health condition.

But now there’s a new ­smartphone app designed to help people track their alcohol consumption, and it has been found to aid UK veterans.

Called DrinksRation, it’s been ­developed by researchers at King’s College London, led by Dr Daniel Leightley along with Lancaster University and the national veterans’ mental-health charity Combat Stress.

More than 120 UK veterans took part in a trial of the 28-day alcohol intervention app.

The results are impressive. After using the DrinksRation app, veterans consumed 28 fewer units of alcohol (equal to about nine pints of standard UK beer) over a week than they had previously, whereas a control group who received only government advice on drinking alcohol, consumed just 10.5 fewer units.

Most users taking part in this study suffered from probable depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, and the app targeted users’ motivations for drinking.

It also promoted positive changes in behaviour using daily personalised messaging and infographics.

Dr Leightley said: “Our trial ­demonstrated that the DrinksRation app was effective in reducing alcohol misuse in help-seeking veterans in the medium term.

“This could make it a valuable tool for the Armed Forces community while they are waiting for treatment and support.

“This digital intervention could provide a novel, low-cost alternative to conventional help-seeking and be as effective as face-to-interventions. I am pleased that the UK Ministry of Defence will be undertaking a trial of the app with the serving community.”

Tom McBarnet, Chief Executive (Acting) at Forces in Mind Trust, said: “The team at King’s have developed an effective short-term tool to lower harmful alcohol use in the Armed Forces community, and to support veterans’ longer-term positive mental health.

“It is important to note that not all veterans who experience problem drinking or mental-health issues will seek help, and it is equally important to continue to find ways to reach out to those who could benefit from these kinds of interventions.

“The evidence is clear that this is an effective and low-cost tool to support veterans, and we look forward to seeing development of its further possibilities.”

The app is also now available to the general public.

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