Correlation Between Self-Reported and Wearable Sensor Data for Alcohol Consumption

alcoholism, young people drinking beer on the bench
Young adults who engaged in binge drinking were recruited for this study and were fitted for a transdermal alcohol concentration ankle sensor. They also received training on ecological momentary assessment surveys.

Wearable transdermal alcohol concentration (TAC) sensors may be effective for studies of alcohol misuse among young adults. These findings were published in Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research.

Young adults (N=222) aged 21 to 29 years who engaged in binge drinking were recruited on The Pennsylvania State University campus. Participants were fitted for their TAC ankle sensor and received training on ecological momentary assessment (EMA) surveys.

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

The participants were 63.5% women, aged mean 22.3 (standard deviation [SD], 1.3) years, 78.8% were White, and 51.4% consumed alcohol 1 to 2 days per week.

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

At both day- and individual-level analyses, TAC and morning drink reports were highly correlated (r range, 0.60-0.70) but individual EMA drink totals were only mildly correlated (r range, 0.30-0.50).

Alcohol-related consequences were predicted by TAC peak (adjusted incidence rate ratio [aIRR], 1.61; 95% CI, 1.33-1.95; P <.001), larger area under the curve (aIRR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.30-1.83; P <.001), faster rise (aIRR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.06-1.53; P <.001), and fall (aIRR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.03-1.50; P <.05) rates.

The results from this study may not be generalizable outside the university setting.

The study authors concluded, “We derived and tested features from TAC sensor trajectories as indicators of self-reported drinking and predictors of alcohol-related consequences in natural settings. TAC features appear strongly associated with daily morning self-reported number of drinks, and more modestly associated with daily drink totals from 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 young-adult drinking.”


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