The U@Uni study is a randomised controlled trial to investigate the effect of a multi-device digital health intervention on health behaviour (e.g., fruit and vegetable intake, physical activity, alcohol consumption, smoking) among young people during the transition from school to university.
Eating healthily, being physically active, drinking sensibly and not smoking reduce the risk of developing serious conditions such as cancer, obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes. However, according to recent health surveys only 20% of young people eat the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, less than 50% meet weekly physical activity guidelines, 25% are smokers and 40% exceed daily alcohol recommendations.
The lifestyle habits that are established in early adulthood often persist into later life and determine future health. The transition to university is a significant change in the lives of young adults as this typically involves living away from home for the first time with freedom from parental supervision; as a result of new peer networks and a change of environment old habits may be broken and new habits are formed. Therefore, this transition represents a “teachable” moment to intervene and promote healthy lifestyle habits.
The intervention uses a number of theory-based techniques from health psychology to ensure that students (i) engage with the intervention material, (ii) receive information that target key beliefs underlying each behaviour and (iii) make specific plans to be more healthy.
The study uses digital technology (e.g., website, social networking, mobile technology) to deliver the intervention in order to appeal to young adults and provide a cost effective way of theory-based health information to a large number of students.