Health and wellbeing outcomes for defendants entering the Alcohol-MERIT program

30 January 2014

Aim: To assess whether the NSW Alcohol-MERIT program improves the health and wellbeing of defendants.

Method: Before their participation in the Alcohol-MERIT program, the health and wellbeing of 123 defendants was measured using the SF-36, Kessler-10 psychological distress scale and the SADQ for alcohol dependence level. These defendants were then followed-up two and six months after this baseline interview. Changes in the SF-36, Kessler-10 and SADQ responses were examined between: (1) baseline and the two-month interview and; (2) baseline and the six-month interview.

Results: Two months after commencing the Alcohol-MERIT program, there were significant improvements in the SF-36 scores for defendants across four of the eight dimensions, significantly lower levels of psychological distress (Kessler-10) and lower levels of dependence on alcohol (SADQ). Six months after commencing the Alcohol-MERIT program, there were significant improvements in the SF-36 scores for defendants across six of the eight dimensions, significantly less psychological distress and dependence on alcohol.

Conclusion: Defendants reported significant improvements in their health and wellbeing after participating in the Alcohol-MERIT program. However, attributing these improvements to the Alcohol-MERIT program alone is not possible given the absence of a relevant comparison group.

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