Depressive symptoms as a moderator of college student response to computerized alcohol intervention

Mary Beth Miller, Nicole Hall, Angelo M. DiBello, Chan Jeong Park, Lindsey Freeman, Ellen Meier, Eleanor L.S. Leavens, Thad R. Leffingwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Personalized normative alcohol feedback (PNF) is associated with decreased alcohol use among young adults. However, limited research has examined the influence of depressive symptoms on PNF efficacy. This study examined symptoms of depression as a moderator of college student response to a computerized PNF intervention for alcohol use. Methods: College students (N = 212, 59% female) who reported drinking in a typical week completed baseline and one-month assessments as part of a previously published intervention trial. We randomized participants to alcohol PNF (n = 153) or assessment only (n = 59). We used regression models to examine the interaction between PNF and symptoms of depression on alcohol outcomes at one-month follow-up. Results: One in four participants screened positive for clinically significant symptoms of depression. Depressive symptoms did not moderate intervention effects on drinking quantity. However, PNF was only associated with reduced frequency of heavy episodic drinking and lower probability of any alcohol-related consequence in the context of mild to moderate (not minimal) symptoms of depression. Conclusions: PNF is more effective than assessment alone in reducing drinking quantity, regardless of symptoms of depression. However, it may only be more effective in decreasing frequency of heavy episodic drinking and the probability of alcohol-related consequences among those experiencing mild to moderate (as opposed to minimal) symptoms of depression. Alcohol intervention trials should assess symptoms of depression and consider them in data analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108038
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


  • Alcohol
  • Brief intervention
  • Depression
  • Personalized normative feedback
  • Young adult


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