Prevention of Alcohol-Related Harm

Research Aims

  1. To develop and test: novel brief interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm; new methods of delivering brief interventions; and new methods of improving recruitment and retention to trials.
  2. To identify and explore the drivers of harmful drinking.


Excessive alcohol consumption is a major public health problem.  The current cost of alcohol problems to the UK exceeds £20 billion.  The harms affect disadvantaged groups most strongly, making alcohol a major contributor to inequalities in health. 

Effective brief interventions have been developed to reduce alcohol-related harm.  However these interventions were designed for and tested on middle aged men in healthcare settings.  There is no evidence that these interventions are effective with other social groups such as disadvantaged young men, pregnant women or older people. It is also unclear whether they will work in community settings.


The overarching aim of the Prevention of Alcohol-Related Harm Research Group is to develop new interventions tailored to specific social groups within society.  The groups will include disadvantaged young men, students, young women, older people and underage drinkers.  Novel interventions designed for each group will be delivered using media that are appropriate to the group.  These interventions will be designed so that they can be rolled out nationally at low cost. To do this they will exploit recent developments in communications technology (e-mail, internet and mobile phone).

One of the challenges of prevention research is recruitment and retention of subjects to studies.  These problems are particularly acute in community settings in which many individuals may be unaware of the risks of hazardous drinking. Thus the group is exploring novel recruitment strategies for individuals in hard to reach groups, including disadvantaged people and prisoners. 


The Prevention of Alcohol-Related Harm Research Group is supported by funding from a range of national bodies: National Institute for Health Research, Medical Research Council, Scottish Funding Council and NHS National Education Scotland.

Wider implications

The alcohol group is one of the four major strands of the Scottish School of Public Health Research (SSPHR). This is a collaboration between the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Its mission is to create world-class public health research collaborations across Scotland to develop the evidence-base for implementing effective public health policies which address national priority areas in Scotland. The methodology and findings from our research on alcohol are transferable to the adverse health behaviours, obesity, smoking and violence that form the other three strands of the SSPHR.  Thus the Prevention of Alcohol-Related Harm Research Group is currently developing collaborations through the SSPHR to tackle a variety of adverse health behaviours.

Current Projects

Recently Completed Projects