Using Ecological Momentary Assessment in Testing the Effectiveness of an Alcohol Intervention: A Two-Arm Parallel Group Randomized Controlled Trial Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Alcohol consumption of college students has a fluctuating nature, which might impact the measurement of intervention effects. By using 25 follow-up time-points, this study tested whether intervention effects are robust or might vary over time. METHODS: Data were used from a two-arm parallel group randomized controlled trial applying ecological momentary assessment (EMA) with 30 data time-points in total. Students between 18 and 24 years old who reported heavy drinking in the past six months and who were ready to change their alcohol consumption were randomly assigned to the experimental (n = 456: web-based brief alcohol intervention) and control condition (n = 451: no intervention). Outcome measures were weekly alcohol consumption, frequency of binge drinking, and heavy drinking status. RESULTS: According to the intention-to-treat principle, regression analyses revealed that intervention effects on alcohol consumption varied when exploring multiple follow-up time-points. Intervention effects were found for a) weekly alcohol consumption at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 weeks follow-up, b) frequency of binge drinking at 1, 2, 7, and 12 weeks follow-up, and c) heavy drinking status at 1, 2, 7, and 16 weeks follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: This research showed that the commonly used one and six month follow-up time-points are relatively arbitrary and not using EMA might bring forth erroneous conclusions on the effectiveness of interventions. Therefore, future trials in alcohol prevention research and beyond are encouraged to apply EMA when assessing outcome measures and intervention effectiveness. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register NTR2665.


  • Voogt, Carmen V
  • Kuntsche, Emmanuel
  • Kleinjan, Marloes
  • Poelen, Evelien AP
  • Lemmers, Lex ACJ
  • Engels, Rutger CME

publication date

  • 2013