Brighter skin, better sleep and more money: the proven benefits of Dry January

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Moya Crockett
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Need inspiration to stick with Dry January? A major new study provides just that…

First, a confession: I have never attempted Dry January. Partly, this is because I was born midway through the most depressing month of the year, and I generally want my birthday celebrations to involve at least some wine. But it’s also because – putting to one side the dreams of self-improvement that the New Year brings – January is a hard month to stop drinking. It’s a hard month in general: dark, cold, and devoid of many communal festivities. Against this bleak backdrop, who wants to say no to a glass of cabernet sauvignon in front of the telly?

Well, as it turns out, quite a lot of people. According to a new YouGov poll, around 3.1 million people in the UK began doing Dry January on New Year’s Day 2019, with people working full-time the most likely to attempt to give up alcohol.

British culture has long been steeped in booze, so if you’re among the millions hopping onto the wagon this month, it’s likely that you could do with some inspiration and motivation. Enter: a major new study by psychologists at the University of Sussex, which highlights the many, many ways that Dry January could improve your life.

Millions of people plan to stick to alcohol-free drinks this January 

Researchers surveyed over 800 people who took part in Dry January in 2018 to find out how giving up alcohol made them feel, in both the short and long-term. Their findings were striking. A staggering 93% of participants felt a real sense of achievement after successfully doing Dry January, while 88% saved money and 70% experienced a general improvement in their health.

A majority of respondents also reported better sleep (71%), more energy (67), weight loss (58%), improved concentration (57%) and better skin (54%) as a result of giving up alcohol for a month. 

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Perhaps most compellingly, the study also shows how doing Dry January can prompt people to examine why, how, when, where and what they drink. More than 80% of respondents said that taking part in Dry January made them think more deeply about their relationship with alcohol, and a similar proportion felt more in control of their drinking.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said that they learned more about when and why they drink thanks to Dry January, while 71% realised that they didn’t need booze to enjoy themselves after being sober for a month. 

More than 70% of people sleep better after giving up booze for a month. 

“Put simply, Dry January can change lives,” says Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK.

“Many of us know about the health risks of alcohol – seven forms of cancer, liver disease, mental health problems – but we are often unaware that drinking less has more immediate benefits too. Sleeping better, feeling more energetic, saving money, better skin, losing weight… The list goes on.”

Dr Richard de Visser, reader in psychology at the University of Sussex, led the study. He notes that many people who take part in Dry January report a healthier relationship with alcohol several months down the line, with participants still drinking less in August.

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“The simple act of taking a month off alcohol helps people drink less in the long term: by August people are reporting one extra dry day per week,” he says. 

Encouragingly, De Visser adds that some of the short-term benefits of Dry January – saving money and better sleep, for example – were also experienced by “participants who didn’t manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month”.

“This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January.”

Images: Daoudi Aissa/Christopher Jolly, Unsplash