Published in JAMA Network Open, research led by Professor Nicola Newton, Director of Prevention at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, has found that the personality-focussed prevention program, PreVenture, can have long-lasting benefits and reduces alcohol-related harm from early adolescence (13 years) to well after students leave school and enter their twenties.
The study has, to date, followed Australian teenagers through a pivotal time of life transition including reaching the legal age to purchase alcohol. This investigation focusses on drinking behaviours of young people with personality traits associated with greater odds of problematic drinking (anxiety sensitivity, hopelessness, impulsivity, and sensation seeking).
The results show that students who completed the PreVenture program were significantly less likely to experience alcohol-related harms in the past six months at each point of follow up over seven years.
The PreVenture program is a two-session, personality targeted intervention that upskills adolescents to better cope with their emotions and behaviours, to prevent them from relying on alcohol and other drugs, and other risky ways of coping. The program was originally developed and tested by Professor Patricia Conrod at the University of Montreal's Venture Lab.
Professor Newton worked with Professor Conrod at King’s College London as an early career researcher and together, with Dr Emma Barrett, they adapted the program for Australian schools.
In the program, students learn about aspects of their personality and unhelpful patterns of thinking and acting, increasing their self-awareness. The program provides students with valuable coping skills that reduce engagement in unhelpful behaviours and help them achieve their goals.
Alcohol misuse is a large burden disease in Australia with significant harm and cost to the community. Drinking patterns formed during teenage years last into adulthood.
This investigation of the long-term outcomes focusses on drinking as it covers the formative years of transitioning from adolescents into adulthood and meeting the legal age of drinking in Australia. This investigation is a secondary analysis of a larger cluster randomised clinical trial that was published earlier this year.
This investigation found that while there was no difference in binge drinking and hazardous drinking at 7-year follow up, PreVenture did provide protective factors against experiencing poor outcomes of drinking or 'alcohol-related harm'.
Young people who completed the PreVenture program at 13 years were 19% less likely to report alcohol related harm at 20.5 years of age. This suggests that the PreVenture program provides young people with long-lasting skills that they can use to avoid alcohol-related harms even if they are drinking. Students who complete the PreVenture program are better equipped to identify possible adverse outcomes of alcohol use and know how to prevent this with strategies specific to their personality traits.
The strength of PreVenture is that it helps students understand the connection between aspects of their personality and behaviours; and learn adaptive coping skills specific to those personality traits. This can be translated in many aspects of life, helping students manage academic stress, peer pressure, interpersonal conflict, and identity development.
The program was initially developed to prevent or delay onset of alcohol and other drug use, but since has been found to also:
This is due to the Preventure's broad focus on common unhelpful patterns of thinking and acting, rather than education on drugs and alcohol, as is typical with substance use programs in schools.
The Department of Health and Aging funded drug and alcohol education portal, Positive Choices, recommends the PreVenture program and outlines how teachers can register their interest in future PreVenture training.
While PreVenture is a program designed specifically for young people who score high on specific personality traits there are other programs, such as OurFutures, that are mapped to Australian and State curriculum and delivered to all students in a classroom setting.
The federal government recently announced a $203.7 million Student Well-being Boost, with the average school receiving $20,000 towards improving student mental health and well-being. PreVenture and OurFutures are two programs that can improve student mental health and well-being as part of the Student Well-Being Boost.
The PreVenture program was originally developed and tested by Professor Patricia Conrod at the University of Montreal, Canada.
The program was adapted for Australia by Professor Conrad and Professor Newton.
We would like to acknowledge the authors of the paper discussed: Nicola C. Newton, Jennifer Debenham, Tim Slade, Anna Smout, Lucinda Grummitt, Matthew Sunderland, Emma L. Barrett, Katrina E. Champion, Cath Chapman, Erin Kelly, Siobhan Lawler, Natalie Castellanos-Ryan, Maree Teesson, Patricia J. Conrod, and Lexine Stapinski.
We thank the schools, students, and research assistants who made this study possible.