StFX Psychology Professor Leading Study to Test Effectiveness of Alcohol Warning Labels

Dr. Kara Thompson

Dr. Kara Thompson, StFX psychology professor and coordinator of the StFX Interdisciplinary Health program, has received $238,951 in funding from the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Funding Exploration competition. These grants fund Canadian-led interdisciplinary high-risk and high-reward research projects. 

Dr. Thompson is leading a team comprised of scientists from the fields of psychology, public health, nutritional science, and marketing, to study the effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in a real-world setting. “Alcoholic beverages have been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen and are a leading risk factor for cancer,” says Dr. Thompson, “however, public awareness about the health risks associated with alcohol consumption remains low.” 

She says health warning labels are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a mechanism for increasing consumer knowledge about the negative consequences of alcohol. Despite support amongst Canadians, their implementation has been strongly, and successfully, opposed by the industry. 

“Few real-world studies have tested the effectiveness of alcohol labels. Labels have largely been developed by researchers without stakeholder consultation and have been tested online or in laboratory settings. This interdisciplinary partnership seeks to overcome some of the barriers that are impeding the implementation of alcohol labels in Canada,” Dr. Thompson says. 

Dr. Thompson has proposed to work with a local craft brewery to co-create labels that inform consumers of standard drink information and Canada’s new guidance on alcohol and health that was released by CCSA in January 2023. “Craft breweries are an important part of small communities and help shape the culture around alcohol. They care deeply about their consumers and are mindful of how current decisions influence future business. By working with community-based craft brewers, we hope to develop labels that help consumers make more informed decisions about their alcohol use.” 

Dr. Richard Isnor, StFX Associate Vice President, Research and Graduate Studies, says Dr. Thompson’s success in receiving a New Frontiers in Research Fund Exploration Grant is a significant achievement. “This is an extremely competitive national research funding competition. Dr. Thompson’s project represents a great example of how StFX research contributes to health and wellness, but also represents a partnership that can contribute to corporate social responsibility.”