Web-based alcohol feedback intervention for heavy drinking college students: Does drinking control strategy use mediate intervention effects?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Kate B. Carey


College drinking, Protective strategies, Drinking control, Brief intervention, Web-based, Alcohol feedback intervention

Subject Categories

Clinical Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Heavy drinking among college students is common and can lead to substantial risks. Research shows that college students use drinking control strategies to decrease their alcohol consumption and/or related risk. Interventions designed to reduce heavy drinking in college students often recommend use of strategies. However, the role of drinking control strategy use in the outcome of brief personalized-feedback interventions for heavy drinking college students is unknown. This study employed a longitudinal, randomized controlled design. Participants who reported two or more heavy drinking episodes in the past month were randomly assigned to receive either personalized feedback related to their alcohol use ( n = 105), or general health information ( n = 110). All participants completed follow-up assessments 1-month and 2-months post-baseline. The following hypotheses were evaluated: (1) Participants receiving personalized feedback will show significant reductions in alcohol use at follow-up compared to control participants receiving general health feedback; (2) Participants receiving personalized feedback will show significant reductions in alcohol-related problems at follow-up compared to control participants; (3) Participants receiving personalized feedback will show significant increases in all three strategy use scores at follow-up compared to control participants; (4) Drinking control strategy use will mediate changes in alcohol consumption; (5) Drinking control strategy use will mediate reductions in alcohol-related problems. Results indicated that participants in both conditions reduced their alcohol use and related problems; however no significant differences in reductions were found between the intervention and control conditions. Contrary to expectations, all participants decreased their use of drinking control strategies over the follow-up period. Structural equation modeling showed that use of strategies related to avoiding heavy drinking activities and situations at 1-month, negatively predicted alcohol use and problems at 2-month follow-up; whereas strategies used in drinking situations at 1-month positively predicted drinking and problems at 2-month follow-up. This study provides evidence that brief interventions focused on either health or alcohol use can lead to reductions in alcohol use and related harms. These results support previous findings that drinking control strategy subtypes are differentially related to alcohol use. Future studies should examine change in control groups, and the effects of assessment reactivity on change.