In the UK, a research project tested the effect of different pictorial representations of alcohol content, some with a health warning, on knowledge of the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines (LRDG) and understanding of how many drinks the guidelines equates to.
The study used a parallel randomised controlled trial with over 7,000 participants aged over 18 years, who consumed alcohol. The control group saw existing industry-standard labels; six intervention groups saw designs based on: food labels (serving or serving & container), pictographs (servings or containers), pie charts (servings), or risk gradients. A total of 500 participants (~70 per condition) saw a health warning under the design.
In the control group, 21.5% knew the LRDG; proportions were higher in intervention groups. The three best-performing designs had the LRDG in a separate statement, underneath the pictograph container, 51.1% , pictograph serving, 48.8%, and pie chart serving, 47.5%. Overall, participants underestimated how many servings they could drink; intervention groups were more accurate and the best performing design was the pictograph serving. Participants overestimated how many containers they could drink; intervention groups overestimated even more and the worst performing design was food label serving. Participants judged the alcohol content of beers more accurately than wine or spirits. The inclusion of a health warning had no statistically significant effect on any measure.
The study concludes that labels with enhanced pictorial representations of alcohol content improved knowledge and understanding of the United Kingdom’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines (LRDG) compared with industry-standard labels; health warnings did not improve knowledge or understanding of LRDG. Designs that improved knowledge most had the LRDG in a separate statement located underneath graphics.
Source: Gold N, Egan M, Londakova K, Mottershaw A, Harper H, Burton R, Henn C, Smolar M, Walmsley M, Arambepola R, Watson R, Bowen S, Greaves F. Effect of alcohol label designs with different pictorial representations of alcohol content and health warnings on knowledge and understanding of Low Risk Drinking Guidelines: A randomized controlled trial. Addiction. 2020 Nov 9.