Nobody heads out for the night with the intention of waking up with a hangover. However, as some of us can attest, it can happen. Even with the best intentions to keep drinking to a minimum, it can become all too easy after a couple of drinks to go back for a couple more, and maybe a couple more, leading to unintended and potentially dangerous consequences.
In order to help tech-savvy citizens curtail this habit, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has unveiled an application called “Alcohol Tracker,” designed to track alcohol consumption and analyze trends over time, touting it as the “first official alcohol tracker application for mobile phones.”
Downloadable to either a user’s desktop or iPhone via the NHS Choices website, the NHS Drinks Tracker app lets users enter what they’re drinking, how much of it they’re drinking, and what strength each beverage is. Preset selections for beer or cider, wine or champagne, spirits or shots, or an alcopop (the term used for sugary or fruity alcoholic beverages) enable the user to input their drinks and the % of alcohol associated with each. After each drink is saved, the program calculates a tally of total units consumed. By moving from this “Select Drinks” tab to the adjacent “Tracker” tab, you can see a graph of your overall alcohol consumption, contrasted in blue against the steady red line that indicates “daily recommended units.” From here you can get a feedback box comparing your drinking over the course of the week, or several, to the recommended average, with an update on potential health risks.
The app also contains a small F.A.Q. section, which provides more detail about various hazards associated with over-consumption.
The NHS Choices site describes the drinks tracker as a great app “if you want to cut down on how much you drink” and for motivated users, it has the potential to be a great tool. The interface is simple, clear, and quite easy to use. Not only does it let you keep tabs on a single night’s drinking, but also provides a graphical representation of drinking habits over time. This longer term view facilitates awareness, and it’s easy to see how it can help users can identify habits they might not have known they had.
It’s up to the users themselves to take the next step - using this information to make better choices in the future. A solid first step to helping people become aware of their alcohol consumption, it’s easy to see where additional features might be useful. As one example, the drink selection tool lets you enter drinks of different strengths, but it doesn’t provide any information for helping you to figure out what those strengths might be. A list of popular beverages with pre-set alcohol content information keyed to each might be a good addition.
It’s premature to pass verdict on the application’s success at this point, but anything that helps people become self-aware, that helps them identify habits that can be harmful, and that provides information that can be used to make positive behavior changes is bound to be successful for some. And the tracker’s intuitive interface and its portability will certainly facilitate easier use - which is the first step for many.
American users can currently download the desktop version; for now iTunes does not support a mobile U.S. release.