Leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research

15th November 2019

Forces in Mind Trust has awarded a grant of £310,144 to the King’s Centre for Military Health Research at King’s College London to conduct a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a veteran-specific smartphone app to assess its effectiveness in helping ex-Service personnel to reduce their alcohol consumption.

The app was developed by researchers at King’s in collaboration with the University of Liverpool to enable self-monitoring and management of alcohol consumption in ex-Service personnel who drink at hazardous or harmful levels. Distinguishing it from similar products, this app was co-designed with ex-Service personnel and uses military terminology, language and content. It also offers feedback and generates tailored text messaging. The app adapts to users’ needs with a novel personalisation framework which focuses on short-term consequences such as impact on fitness, mood, relationships and finances which helps motivate ex-Service personnel to reduce their alcohol consumption.

This RCT will be the first time an app aimed at UK ex-Service personnel has been academically tested.  A focus group of 10 ex-Service personnel will be recruited to review and refine the app as part of a co-design process and 600 participants will take part in the trial. Using data from the app, the research team will assess the effectiveness of the app in reducing alcohol consumption in a real-world setting and the impact on participants’ quality of life. The research team will also conduct a literature review to evaluate the benefits of using digital technology in the management and treatment of alcohol misuse.

Dr Daniel Leightley, project lead, King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London, said: “We are delighted to be working with Forces in Mind Trust and Combat Stress to trial our app with ex-Service personnel. Our study not only aims to understand if our app is helpful in reducing the amount ex-Service personnel drink, but also aims to improve understanding on how digital technology can be used to support Service charities and the Armed Forces Community.”

Dr Dominic Murphy, project lead, Combat Stress, said: “This is an exciting project that aims to support ex-Service personnel with alcohol difficulties by testing the use of an app-based treatment package that will allow individuals to access support digitally 24 hours a day at a time and location that suits them.”

Dr Laura Goodwin, project lead, Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, said: “We know that ex-Service personnel with mental health problems are more likely to require support for alcohol misuse, but this support is often difficult to obtain. We are pleased to be able to trial this mobile app with ex-Service personnel using Combat Stress to understand whether it can help them reduce their drinking”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust, said: “Previous research has shown that more than 50% of ex-Service personnel meet the criteria for hazardous alcohol use and, while there is a range of treatment pathways available for alcohol misuse, not all ex-Service personnel are able, or want, to access support services. Digital interventions such as this can provide a novel alternative to conventional help seeking and have been shown to be as effective as face-to-interventions at a lower cost to society. The app has the potential to catalyse real change and this RCT will help us to understand whether it can be used as an effective treatment tool in lowering harmful alcohol use in the Armed Forces Community.”


Notes to editors:

Ray Lock is available for interview. To arrange please contact Edward Haynes at [email protected] / 020 7700 6952

Daniel Leightley is available for interview. To arrange please contact Robin Bisson, Senior Press Officer, King’s College London on +44 20 7848 5377/+44 7718 697176 / [email protected].

About King’s College London

King’s College London is one of the top 10 UK universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2018/19) and is among the oldest universities in England. King’s has an outstanding reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research.  Since our foundation, King’s students and staff have dedicated themselves in the service of society. King’s will continue to focus on world-leading education, research and service, and will have an increasingly proactive role to play in a more interconnected, complex world.


About Forces in Mind Trust
FiMT came about from a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund (‘the Fund’), Cobseo (The Confederation of Service Charities) and other charities and organisations. FiMT continues the Fund’s long-standing legacy of support for veterans across the UK with an endowment of £35 million awarded in 2012. http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/.

The mission of FiMT is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families to make a successful and sustainable transition to civilian life. FiMT delivers this mission by generating an evidence base that influences and underpins policy making and service delivery, and by strengthening the Armed Forces charities sector through collaboration and leadership, and by building its capacity.

FiMT awards grants (for both responsive and commissioned work) to support its change model in the following areas: Housing; Employment; Health and wellbeing; Finance; Criminal Justice System; and Relationships. All work is published in open access and hosted on the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre’s Veterans and Families Research Hub. A high standard of reportage is demanded of all grant holders so as to provide a credible evidence base from which better-informed decisions can be made.

Useful links
Website: www.fim-trust.org
Reports: www.fim-trust.org/reports/
Who we have helped: www.fim-trust.org/who-we-have-helped/
Twitter: @FiMTrust

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