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Can brief alcohol interventions in general hospital inpatients improve mental and general health over 2 years? Results from a randomized controlled trial

  • Jennis Freyer-Adam (a1) (a2), Sophie Baumann (a2) (a3) (a4), Katja Haberecht (a2) (a3), Gallus Bischof (a5), Christian Meyer (a2) (a3), Hans-Jürgen Rumpf (a5), Ulrich John (a2) (a3) and Beate Gaertner (a6)...



Little is known about the impact of brief alcohol interventions on mental and general health. The aim was to investigate whether brief interventions for general hospital inpatients with at-risk drinking can improve mental and general health over 2 years; and whether effects are dependent on how they are delivered: in-person or through computer-generated feedback letters (CO).


Three-arm randomized controlled trial with 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month follow-ups. Data were collected on 13 general hospital wards from four medical departments (internal medicine, surgical medicine, trauma surgery, and ear-nose-throat) of one university hospital in northeastern rural Germany. A consecutive sample of 961 18- to 64-year-old general hospital inpatients with at-risk alcohol use was recruited through systematic screening. Inpatients with particularly severe alcohol problems were excluded. Participants were allocated to: in-person counseling (PE), CO, and assessment only (AO). PE and CO included three contacts: on the ward, 1, and 3 months later. Mental and general health were assessed using the five-item mental health inventory (0–100) and a one-item general health measure (0, poor – 4, excellent).


Latent growth models including all participants revealed: after 24 months and in contrast to AO, mental and general health were improved in PE (change in mean difference, ΔMmental = 5.13, p = 0.002, Cohen's d = 0.51; ΔMgeneral = 0.20, p = 0.005, d = 0.71) and CO (ΔMmental = 6.98, p < 0.001, d = 0.69; ΔMgeneral = 0.24, p = 0.001, d = 0.86). PE and CO did not differ significantly.


Beyond drinking reduction, PE and CO can improve general hospital inpatients’ self-reported mental and general health over 2 years.


Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Jennis Freyer-Adam, E-mail:


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