Ray’s Night Out: New iPhone app targets young people’s alcohol use

Research has shown that excessive alcohol use is widespread in young people; more than doubling the risk of injury in young people aged 15 to 25. With this in mind, our e-Tools for Wellbeing team—a partnership between the Young and Well CRC and Queensland University of Technology—have developed ‘Ray’s Night Out’, a new app providing young people and those working with them with an accessible, engaging resource to further develop their understanding of alcohol and drinking limits.

“We are really excited to be able to offer it as a new way to influence positive behavior change in young people through technology. While Ray’s Night Out is targeted to young people aged 15 to 25, is a great resource for clinicians, teachers, practitioners and parents to use to help guide young people’s understanding of alcohol use and its limits, through a visually appealing, fun and engaging app.,” said Associate Professor Jane Burns, CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.

The development of ‘Ray’s Night Out’ put users at the centre through participatory design workshops with young people aged between 18 and 25 years, as well as application of the Mobile Application Rating Scale—a tool for assessing the quality of mobile health apps.

Users of ‘Ray’s Night Out’ take Ray the panda for a night out, buying drinks and food, dancing and playing bar trivia. Users collect good vibe points to unlock rewards and take selfies with Ray while taking care that he doesn’t cross his ‘stupid line’ for drinking – the point where a good night out turns bad.

Results of a randomised controlled trial showed that the app provided helpful hints for safer drinking and motivated participants to think about their drinking goals for a night out. Additionally, assessments over a six-month period found significant reductions in the average number of typical and maximum drinks consumed by participants on one occasion. While only 31% of participants said that app motivated them to change their drinking, results showed that behaviour of an additional 17% participants changed, with the number of young people who did not experience any alcohol related problems almost doubled during the course of the study, from 24.9% to 48.1%.

The project was led by Associate Professor Leanne Hides of the Queensland University of Technology, a clinical psychologist with expertise in substance use disorders in young people.

“Results suggest that apps created using participatory design have a better chance of achieving greater impact and uptake. Placing future users at the centre of the process enables developers to create bespoke, and thus more engaging, apps. Ray’s Night Out utilises gamification to deliver an entertaining, non-stigmatising and accessible mode of teaching young people safe drinking strategies. It is a step in the right direction to addressing risky drinking behaviours amongst young people, increasing awareness of the associated hazards, and reduce the negative impact of the ‘drinking to intoxication’ culture,” said Associate Professor Hides.

Read the Executive Summary and download ‘Ray’s Night Out’ from iTunes.

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