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HealthWatch: Heavy drinkers – where do you rank?

Excessive drinkers are more likely to seek help if they are told where their drinking ranks compared to other people, according to new research.

A group of drinkers were sent different messages by text and researchers found more sought advice when they were sent a message saying they drank more units per week than most of the participants in percentage terms.

Researchers found the message far more effective than sending them a text saying what the recommended level of drinking is, or when told how much they drink compared to the recommended level or what the average is for their age group.

Ivo Vlaev, Professor of Behavioural Science at Warwick Business School, believes tweaking the message sent to drinkers could really help tackle the serious health concern of excessive alcohol consumption in the UK.

Professor Vlaev said: “Excessive drinkers typically underestimate their consumption relative to that of others, and these interventions with messages aim to reduce consumption by correcting this misperception by telling people how their drinking actually compares with that of others.

“The study shows informing excessive drinkers of how their alcohol consumption ranked was more effective in persuading them to seek alcohol-related health information than informing them in other ways.

“Ultimately our aim was to encourage these individuals to seek such information in order to enable them to become better informed of services that could help them reduce their alcohol intake.”

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