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Monday, April 22, 2013

An exploratory cluster randomised trial of a university halls of residence based social norms marketing campaign to reduce alcohol consumption among 1st year students

This exploratory trial examines the feasibility of implementing a social norms marketing campaign to reduce student drinking in universities in Wales, and evaluating it using cluster randomised trial methodology.
Fifty residence halls in 4 universities in Wales were randomly assigned to intervention or control arms. Web and paper surveys were distributed to students within these halls (n = 3800), assessing exposure/contamination, recall of and evaluative responses to intervention messages, perceived drinking norms and personal drinking behaviour. Measures included the Drinking Norms Rating Form, the Daily Drinking Questionnaire and AUDIT-C.
A response rate of 15% (n = 554) was achieved, varying substantially between sites. Intervention posters were seen by 80% and 43% of students in intervention and control halls respectively, with most remaining materials seen by a minority in both groups. Intervention messages were rated as credible and relevant by little more than half of students, though fewer felt they would influence their behaviour, with lighter drinkers more likely to perceive messages as credible. No differences in perceived norms were observed between intervention and control groups. Students reporting having seen intervention materials reported lower descriptive and injunctive norms than those who did not.
Attention is needed to enhancing exposure, credibility and perceived relevance of intervention messages, particularly among heavier drinkers, before definitive evaluation can be recommended. A definitive evaluation would need to consider how it would achieve sufficient response rates, whilst hall-level cluster randomisation appears subject to a significant degree of contamination.
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