Design and development of a complex narrative intervention delivered by text messages to reduce binge drinking among socially disadvantaged men

Linda Irvine (Lead / Corresponding author), Ambrose J Melson, Brian Williams, Falko F. Sniehotta, Gerry Humphris, Iain Crombie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
188 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Socially disadvantaged men are at high risk of suffering from alcohol-related harm. Disadvantaged groups are less likely to engage with health promotion. There is a need for interventions that reach large numbers at low cost and which promote high levels of engagement with the behaviour change process. The aim of this study was to design a theoretically and empirically based text message intervention to reduce binge drinking by socially disadvantaged men.

Results: Following MRC guidance, the intervention was developed in four stages. Stage 1 developed a detailed behaviour change strategy based on existing literature and theory from several areas. These included the psychological theory that would underpin the intervention, alcohol brief interventions, text message interventions, effective behaviour change techniques, narratives in behaviour change interventions and communication theory. In addition, formative research was carried out. A logic model was developed to depict the pathways between intervention inputs, processes and outcomes for behaviour change. Stage 2 created a narrative which illustrated and modelled key steps in the strategy. Stage 3 rendered the intervention into a series of text messages and ensured that appropriate behavioural change techniques were incorporated. Stage 4 revised the messages to ensure comprehensive coverage of the behaviour change strategy and coherence of the narrative. It also piloted the intervention and made final revisions to it.

Conclusions: The structured, systematic approach to design created a narrative intervention which had a strong theoretical and empirical basis. The use of a narrative helped make the intervention realistic and allowed key behaviour change techniques to be modelled by characters. The narrative was intended to promote engagement with the intervention. The intervention was rendered into a series of short text messages, and subsequent piloting showed they were acceptable in the target group. Delivery of an intervention by text message offers a low-cost, low-demand method that can reach large numbers of people. This approach provides a framework for the design of behaviour change interventions which could be used for interventions to tackle other health behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2018


  • Behaviour change intervention
  • narrative intervention
  • text messages
  • SMS
  • binge drinking
  • complex intervention


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