Project Name: Mood Study
Principal Investigator: Irene Geisner, PhD
Grant Title: Novel Web-Based Intervention for Heavy Drinking and Depressed College Students
Sponsor: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Project Period: 8/1/11-7/31/13
Grant Number: R21AA019993
Project Coordinator: Angela Mittmann

The broad, long-term objective of the current research is to reduce the prevalence of alcohol use and comorbid depressed mood and related harm in the college student population, through development and testing of an efficacious and cost-effective indicated prevention/early intervention technique using internet technology. While many college students drink in social, non-harmful ways, a significant subset of the population experiences substantive harm related to their alcohol use. Heavy drinking is linked with increased consequences, including comorbid depressed mood and hopelessness, increasing students’ risk for suicide. Research suggests there are likely bidirectional relationships between alcohol use and depressed mood. Furthermore, the nature of the relationship may be different for different individuals, and there is no consensus on which of these disorders to treat first, nor whether integrated interventions are preferable. Both alcohol use and depressed mood have been conceptualized as a continuum, from non-drinking and light social drinking, to alcohol abuse and dependence; from sadness/”blues” and depressed mood to major depressive disorder. Heavy episodic drinking and problematic alcohol use is estimated to affect more than 40% of the college student population, while depressed mood has been estimated to affect up to 27%. Students suffering from both make up approximately 20-25% of the student body. The current research builds on our prior work on development of indicated prevention approaches for college student drinking and depressed mood (Geisner et al. 2006; Geisner et al. 2007). Our findings indicate a brief, mailed personalized feedback intervention (PFI) targeting both alcohol and depression, including accurate drinking norms feedback, drinking protective behavioral strategies, and coping strategies for depressed mood is efficacious in reducing symptoms, correcting norms, and thus reducing alcohol use in a vulnerable population (college students). Based on these encouraging findings, the current study extends this work by developing and testing an innovative web-based, personalized feedback intervention (similar to mailed materials). Furthermore, the study seeks to disentangle alcohol and depression components used in Geisner et al. (2006) and compare each component (alcohol or depression feedback) alone to an integrated alcohol and depression condition and a control group, in a sample of students with comorbid depressed mood and heavy alcohol use. The specific aims of the application are: 1) Develop and evaluate efficacy of web-based personalized feedback for heavy drinking, depressed college students. The magnitude and duration of effect will be demonstrated by comparing students (N=400) randomly assigned to one of the four conditions (n=100 per condition), assessed at baseline, 1- and 6-month follow-ups. 2) Test reductions in perceived drinking norms and increases in use of alcohol protective behaviors and depression coping skills as mediators of intervention efficacy. 3) Explore motives for drinking, gender, severity of depression and alcohol consequences, and family history of alcohol and depression as potential moderators.