A theory-based online health behaviour intervention for new university students (U@Uni): results from a randomised controlled trial

Epton, Tracy, Norman, Paul, Dadzie, Aba-Sah, Harris, Peter R., Webb, Thomas L., Sheeran, Paschal, Julious, Steven A., Ciravegna, Fabio, Brennan, Alan, Meier, Petra S., Naughton, Declan, Petroczi, Andrea, Kruger, Jen and Shah, Iltaf (2014) A theory-based online health behaviour intervention for new university students (U@Uni): results from a randomised controlled trial. BMC Public Health, 14(563), ISSN (online) 1471-2458

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Too few young people engage in behaviours that reduce the risk of morbidity and premature mortality, such as eating healthily, being physically active, drinking sensibly and not smoking. This study sought to assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of a theory-based online health behaviour intervention (based on self-affirmation theory, the Theory of Planned Behaviour and implementation intentions) targeting these behaviours in new university students, in comparison to a measurement-only control. METHODS: Two-weeks before starting university all incoming undergraduates at the University of Sheffield were invited to take part in a study of new students' health behaviour. A randomised controlled design, with a baseline questionnaire, and two follow-ups (1 and 6 months after starting university), was used to evaluate the intervention. Primary outcomes were measures of the four health behaviours targeted by the intervention at 6-month follow-up, i.e., portions of fruit and vegetables, metabolic equivalent of tasks (physical activity), units of alcohol, and smoking status. RESULTS: The study recruited 1,445 students (intervention n = 736, control n = 709, 58% female, Mean age = 18.9 years), of whom 1,107 completed at least one follow-up (23% attrition). The intervention had a statistically significant effect on one primary outcome, smoking status at 6-month follow-up, with fewer smokers in the intervention arm (8.7%) than in the control arm (13.0%; Odds ratio = 1.92, p = .010). There were no significant intervention effects on the other primary outcomes (physical activity, alcohol or fruit and vegetable consumption) at 6-month follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: The results of the RCT indicate that the online health behaviour intervention reduced smoking rates, but it had little effect on fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity or alcohol consumption, during the first six months at university. However, engagement with the intervention was low. Further research is needed before strong conclusions can be made regarding the likely effectiveness of the intervention to promote health lifestyle habits in new university students.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This work was supported by the UK National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI) Phase 4 (grant number: MR/J0004501/1). The NPRI includes the following Funding Partners (in alphabetical order): Alzheimer's Research Trust, Alzheimer's Society, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Chief Scientist Office, Scottish Government Health Directorate, Department of Health, Diabetes UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency (HSC & R&D Division), Medical Research Council, The Stroke Association, Wellcome Trust, Welsh Assembly Government and World Cancer Research Fund.
Uncontrolled Keywords: young adults, internet, self-affirmation, theory of planned behaviour, implementation intentions, alcohol, fruit and vegetables, exercise, smoking
Research Area: Allied health professions and studies
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing > School of Life Sciences
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Depositing User: Declan Naughton
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2014 11:10
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2014 09:36
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/28416

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