Forces in Mind Trust has awarded a grant of £310,144 to the King’s Centre for Military Health Research at King’s College London to conduct a randomised controlled trial of a veteran-specific smartphone app to assess its effectiveness in helping ex-Service personnel to reduce their alcohol consumption…

The app was developed by researchers at King’s in collaboration with the University of Liverpool to enable self-monitoring and management of alcohol consumption in ex-Service personnel who drink at hazardous or harmful levels. Distinguishing it from similar products, this app was co-designed with ex-Service personnel and uses military terminology, language and content.

The app adapts to users’ needs with a novel personalisation framework which focuses on short-term consequences such as impact on fitness, mood, relationships and finances which helps motivate ex-Service personnel to reduce their alcohol consumption. This randomised controlled trial (RCT) will be the first time an app aimed at UK ex-Service personnel has been academically tested.

A focus group of 10 ex-Service personnel will be recruited to review and refine the app as part of a co-design process and 600 participants will take part in the trial. Using data from the app, the research team will assess the effectiveness in reducing alcohol consumption in a real-world setting and the impact on participants’ quality of life.

Dr Daniel Leightley, project lead, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, said: “Our study not only aims to understand if our app is helpful in reducing the amount ex-Service personnel drink, but also aims to improve understanding on how digital technology can be used to support Service charities and the Armed Forces Community.”

Dr Laura Goodwin, project lead, Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, said: “We know that ex-Service personnel with mental health problems are more likely to require support for alcohol misuse, but this support is often difficult to obtain. We are pleased to be able to trial this mobile app with ex-Service personnel using Combat Stress to understand whether it can help them reduce their drinking.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Previous research has shown that more than 50% of ex-Service personnel meet the criteria for hazardous alcohol use and, while there is a range of treatment pathways available for alcohol misuse, not all ex-Service personnel are able, or want, to access support services.

“Digital interventions such as this can provide a novel alternative to conventional help seeking and have been shown to be as effective as face-to-interventions at a lower cost to society. The app has the potential to catalyse real change and this RCT will help us to understand whether it can be used as an effective treatment tool in lowering harmful alcohol use in the Armed Forces Community.”