One of the most popular health campaigns that arrives in the New Year is Dry January — the event that encourages us to commit to an alcohol-free month.

The Dry January campaign was introduced in 2013 by Alcohol Change UK, a leading UK alcohol charity. In 2019 more than 4 million people took part in the wellbeing event.

Why take part in Dry January?

Research from Alcohol Change UK has found that 88% of Dry January 2019 participants saved money and 58% of them lost weight.

It’s no secret that alcohol plays a significant role in our lives and culture. Many of us drink to celebrate, socialise and relax. However, there is a significant proportion of the UK and Irish population who have an unhealthy, and at times fatal, relationship with alcohol.

According to the latest figures, the number of alcohol-related deaths in the UK is at its highest level since records began, and alcohol is now responsible for 88 deaths every month in Ireland.

As a result, Alcohol Change UK is encouraging us all to think about our relationship with alcohol by taking a 31-day break from the booze.

Benefits of Dry January

There are severable notable benefits to doing Dry January.

Improved sleeping habits — research revealed that 71% of Dry January participants confirmed they had improved sleep. Alcohol can exacerbate certain sleep conditions like snoring and, by cutting down, you can increase the quality of your sleep, making you more energetic and active.

Financial savings — the average person spends £50,000 on alcohol in their lifetime. To see how much money you can save during Dry January, put aside the amount you would spend on alcohol each week. You may be surprised at the end of the month!

Weight loss — considering a pint of beer contains 215 calories, and a glass of wine is 126 calories, giving up on alcohol for four weeks can make a noticeable impact on your weight.

Mental health — regular alcohol consumption decreases the levels of the brain chemical serotonin, a key chemical in fighting depression. By avoiding alcohol, your serotonin levels will increase and help regulate your mood.

Not only will you see the above benefits during your month-long detox, but research conducted by the University of Sussex has found that Dry January participants are still drinking less than they did six months later.

Relationship with alcohol

Once Dry January is over, we recommend that you spend some time to reflect on what you have achieved during the experience.

How do you feel? Have you lost weight? Do you sleep better? Do you feel more productive during the day? How much money have you saved? The answers to these questions will be vital takeaways to consider after you finish your experiment.

Remember, your tolerance to the effects of alcohol will likely be much lower after your month-long detox, so be careful not to overdo it the first time you choose to drink again.

Overall, taking a 31-day break from drinking will provide numerous health and wellbeing benefits in the short term. However, you will reap the most health benefits if you use Dry January as a springboard to evaluate your usual drinking habits and overall relationship with alcohol.

Further information

See the in-depth topic on Drugs and Alcohol.

For professional advice on wellbeing issues, contact Health Assured, the UK’s leading employee assistance programme and wellbeing services provider on 0844 891 0350.

Last reviewed 24 December 2019