Is Dry January good for you? What happens when you stop drinking

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As we all struggle to do up ill-fitting trousers and nurse epic hangovers, many of you may be asking yourselves, "is Dry January good for you?"

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On the surface cutting out booze for a month might seem either brilliant or barely enough to scratch the surface, depending on your point of view.  There's little doubt, however, that the idea is steadily becoming more popular than ever.

is Dry January good for you Dry January is now a global phenomenon (Credit: Alamy/Carl McIver)

Is dry January good for you?

To help shed some light on whether you should temporarily quit booze, we've done some digging.

As with anything, unravelling the consequences of Dry January is incredibly complicated. What is telling, however, is that in some cases the results can be quite dramatic.

Here are the answers to some of the most pressing questions around Dry January.

is Dry January good for you Even though it's increasingly popular, many people remain unsure if Dry January is good for you (Credit: Alamy/UrbanZone)

What happens when you stop drinking?

The scientific consensus on alcohol is actually pretty clear. For instance, according to a 2018 study conducted by researchers at UCL, even a short period of abstinence can have quite a dramatic effect on the body.

In a 2019 interview with the BBC, a co-author of that same study revealed that their work had led to the inescapable conclusion that a campaign like Dry January "does lead to tangible health benefits by the end of the month."

In addition, the scientist also revealed that participants in that study "saw a weight loss of around 2kg, a decrease in blood pressure of around 5%, and improvement in diabetes risk of almost 30%."

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To make the case even more compelling, it was also revealed that a short break could incur long-lasting health benefits. The same study suggested that between six to eight months after Dry January, the proportion of participants still drinking at harmful levels was down by about half. This led scientists to conclude:

"It may be that participating in Dry January allows individuals to ‘reset’ their relationship with alcohol.”

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However, while these findings are certainly encouraging, there's more to the story. As the original UCL paper published in the British Medical Journal pointed out, the idea that a small break is all that's needed to "refresh the liver or achieve other health gains" is "clearly untrue."

So, while there are tangible benefits to Dry January, it's not going to guarantee a healthy year, in and of itself.

 

How do I start Dry January?

For some, the idea of going a month without a drink can be daunting. Fortunately, there are ways in which you can prepare.

For example, the organisation Alcohol Change, who coordinates the event, offer a series of tools to participants online. These materials include an official app, online blog and guide to taking part.

Several sources cite goal-setting as a key part of the process. Having a tangible target to aim for is much more likely to lead to success.

A good way to do this is to sponsor your abstinence for charity. Additional advice and information can be found on the Alcohol Change website.

What can I drink in Dry January Iced tea is a classic alternative to alcohol (Credit: Alamy/Glasshouse images)

What can you drink in Dry January?

It's easy to assume that everything except water is off-limits. However, it's perfectly possible to enjoy some seriously tasty drinks without delving into the liquor cabinet.

The world is full of traditional wildly popular alcohol alternatives (link to other article), each of which can prove a worthy replacement to your usual tipple. If you ever needed an excuse to broaden your drinking horizons, Dry January is definitely it.

Dry January Alcohol abstinence challenges are increasingly popular (Credit: Alamy/Jeffrey Backler)

How many people go dry in January?

There's no doubt that Dry January is growing in popularity.

According to Alcohol Change, the movement started with just 4,000 participants across the country. In 2020, by contrast, over 100,000 people officially signed up, with an estimated 4 million taking part in total.

Although there is no official data available for 2021, there's no reason to suggest that the trend won't continue.