Dry January Has Many Benefits, Research Reveals

By Beth Leipholtz 01/03/19

A reduction in year-round drinking is one of the many benefits of going dry for the entire month of January, new research shows.

person holding a no alcohol sign during dry January

For some, saying no to alcohol for the first month of a new year is viewed as the ultimate way to reset — especially after the holidays. 

Known as Dry January, this movement initially began as a public health campaign in the UK, Inverse reports. It has gained popularity in recent years, and new research from the University of Sussex indicates it holds a plethora of benefits for participants.

“The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January,” Dr. Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, tells Inverse. “Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialise.”

The recent research involved three online surveys, Inverse reports. The first had 2,821 participants who agreed to take part in Dry January. The second survey involved 1,715 people in the first week of February. Then, the third involved 816 participants in August. 

Of those, participants who completed Dry January and all three of the surveys were found to have something in common: They were drinking less in August. More specifically, Inverse states, their self-reported numbers indicated that their weekly days involving drinking decreased from 4.3 to 3.3. Their average consumption decreased from 8.6 units per day to 7.1, and they reported being drunk about 2.1 times monthly instead of 3.4 times.

But decreased drinking wasn’t the only benefit found among those who had completed Dry January. The research also revealed that 88% saved money, 71% experienced better sleep, 70% saw general health improvements, 67% claimed to have more energy and 58% saw a decrease in weight.

Organizations like Alcohol Change UK encourage people to participate in the month. Alcohol Change UK even offers free access to their Dry January app and continued support. 

“The good news is that Dry January is the perfect training ground for helping you cut down from February onwards,” the website reads. “Cutting down permanently is, for many people, very hard, because habits are hard to break. Dry January is an excellent way of learning what your habits are and how to break them, enabling you to cut down longer-term. You can think of it as a bootcamp for drinking self-control.”

Despite the benefits, the research team raises the point that Dry January may be dangerous for some individuals. For heavy drinkers, quitting cold turkey can induce withdrawal, which involves symptoms like sweating, restlessness, insomnia, nausea, stomach cramps and hallucinations.

For such individuals, the team suggests speaking with a medical professional before taking part in Dry January.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.