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The effect of the first UK COVID-19 lockdown on users of the 'Drink Less' app: An interrupted time series analysis of socio-demographic characteristics, engagement and alcohol reduction

Oldham, Melissa; Perski, Olga; Loebenberg, Gemma; Brown, Jamie; Garnett, Claire; (2022) The effect of the first UK COVID-19 lockdown on users of the 'Drink Less' app: An interrupted time series analysis of socio-demographic characteristics, engagement and alcohol reduction. Journal of Medical Internet Research , 24 (11) , Article e42320. 10.2196/42320. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The first UK COVID-19 lockdown had a polarising impact on drinking behaviour and may have impacted engagement with digital interventions to reduce alcohol consumption. OBJECTIVE: We examined the effect of lockdown on engagement, alcohol reduction and the socio-demographic characteristics among users of the popular and widely available alcohol reduction app, Drink Less. METHODS: A natural experiment. The study period spanned 468 days between 24/03/2019 and 03/07/2020, with the introduction of UK lockdown measures beginning on 24/03/2020. Users were 18+ years, based in the UK and interested in drinking less. Interrupted time series analyses using Generalised Additive Mixed Models were conducted for each outcome variable (i.e., socio-demographic characteristics, app downloads and engagement levels, alcohol consumption, and extent of alcohol reduction) for existing (downloaded the app pre-lockdown) and new (downloaded the app during-lockdown) users of the app. RESULTS: Among existing users of the Drink Less app, there were increases in time spent on the app per day (B=.01, p=.012), mean units of alcohol recorded per day (B>.00 p=.022) and mean heavy drinking (>6 units) days (B>.00 p=.019) during-lockdown. Previous declines in new app downloads plateaued during-lockdown (IRR=1.00, p=.182). Among new app users, there was an increase in the proportion of female users (B>.00, p=.037) and those at risk of alcohol dependence (B>.00, p=.006), and a decrease in the proportion of non-manual workers (B>-.00, p=.043). Among new app users, there were step increases in the mean number of alcohol units per day (B=20.12, p=.032), heavy drinking days (B=1.38, p=.010) and the number of days the app was used (B=2.05, p=.019), alongside a step decrease in the percentage of available screens viewed (B=-0.03, p=.035), indicating users were using less of the intervention components within the app. CONCLUSIONS: Following the first UK lockdown, there was evidence of increases in engagement and alcohol consumption among new and existing users of the Drink Less app. CLINICALTRIAL:

Type: Article
Title: The effect of the first UK COVID-19 lockdown on users of the 'Drink Less' app: An interrupted time series analysis of socio-demographic characteristics, engagement and alcohol reduction
Location: Canada
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.2196/42320
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.2196/42320
Language: English
Additional information: © Melissa Oldham, Olga Perski, Gemma Loebenberg, Jamie Brown, Claire Garnett. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Behavioural Science and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10159027
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