Alcohol consumption

Correlation between self-reported and wearable sensor data for alcohol consumption

Wearable transdermal alcohol concentration (TAC) sensors may be effective for studies of alcohol abuse in young adults. These findings were published in Clinical and experimental research on alcoholism.

Young adults (N = 222) aged 21 to 29 who engaged in heavy drinking were recruited from the Pennsylvania State University campus. Participants were fitted for their TAC ankle sensor and received training on Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) surveys.

Over the next 5 24-hour periods, participants wore their TAC sensor and completed 3 EMA surveys per day on their mobile phone. Heavy drinking was defined as drinking ≥4 or ≥5 drinks on a single occasion for females and males, respectively. Participants were compensated up to $110 depending on their level of study completion.

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The participants were 63.5% women, with an average age of 22.3 years (standard deviation [SD]1.3) years, 78.8% were Caucasian and 51.4% drank alcohol 1-2 days per week.

Every day, participants reported an average of 5.2 drinks per day on drinking days, indicating heavy drinking, and the alcohol-related consequence score was 0.53, indicating that the consequences followed a minority of days of consumption.

At the daily and individual level analyses, reports of TAC and morning drinks were strongly correlated (range r, 0.60-0.70), but individual EMA drink totals were only slightly correlated (range r , 0.30-0.50).

Alcohol-related consequences were predicted by peak TAC (adjusted incidence rate [aIRR], 1.61; 95% CI, 1.33-1.95; P P P P <.05 rate.>

The results of this study may not be generalizable outside of academia.

The study authors concluded, “We derived and tested characteristics of TAC sensor trajectories as indicators of self-reported alcohol consumption and predictors of alcohol-related consequences in natural settings. TAC characteristics seem to be strongly associated with the daily number of self-reported drinks in the morning, and more modestly associated with the total daily drinks of the EMA. […] The current study offers an initial blueprint for feature extraction in research with TAC sensors and supports the utility of TAC sensors in future studies of alcohol use in young adults.


Russell MA, Turrisi RJ, Smyth JM. Characteristics of the transdermal sensor correlate with momentary ecological assessment reports of alcohol consumption and predict alcohol-related consequences in the natural settings of young adults.Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2022;46(1):100-113. doi:10.1111/acer.14739