Nineteen RCTs (n=4,545 participants, sample size range 40 to 1,136) were included in the meta-analysis. Three trials were classed as having a low risk of bias and the other studies were unclear. Follow-up was three months or less in most studies (range two weeks to 12 months).
Total alcohol consumption: In comparison with minimally active interventions, computer-based interventions significantly reduced weekly alcohol consumption in student and non-student populations (WMD -25.9g, 95% CI -41 to -11; 16 RCTs). The change equated to 3.24 UK units of alcohol. The effect was more pronounced in the non-student population (WMD -114.94g, 95% CI -198.60 to -31.29; four RCTs). There was substantial heterogeneity in both analyses (I2=62% and I2=77%). Five studies (n=994 students) with more appropriate measures of central tendency were analysed separately and showed no significant difference between the intervention groups. There was no significant difference between computer-based interventions and active comparators (three RCTs, I2=0%); this analysis was heavily influenced by one trial.
Binge drinking: Compared with minimally active interventions, computer-based interventions were associated with a reduction in the frequency of binge-drinking in student populations (WMD -2.3 days/week, 95% CI -0.47 to 0.00, I2=0%; five RCTs). Pooled analysis of the comparison with active interventions was not possible, but two trials separately indicated no significant difference.