Dry January: Benefits of 1 Month's Alcohol Abstinence Last Through the Year

Starting 2019 off sober is well worth it.

Nothing says “post-Christmas crash” like extreme lethargy, a lack of funds, and unwanted weight gain. That’s what makes Dry January such a brilliant idea: Swearing off booze for the first 31 days of 2019, British researchers reveal in a new report, successfully reverses the consequences of the holidays — and provides a handful of other benefits, to boot.

"The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January.

Dry January, as Inverse reported previously, started off as a public health campaign run by the UK charity Alcohol Concern (now part of Alcohol Change UK) but has spread in popularity across the pond. According to research released Friday from University of Sussex psychologist Richard de Visser, Ph.D., the effects of Dry January are more than fivefold and last far longer than that single, booze-free month.

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

People who completed dry January reported better sleep and health.

Unsplash / Claudia Mañas

A Drier Year Altogether

His research started off with three self-completed online surveys: The first involved 2,821 people that registered for Dry January; the second included 1,715 people in the first week of February, and the third took place in August, with 816 participants. Data on those who completed all three surveys revealed a surprising trend: The people who completed Dry January were drinking less than usual in August.

Analysis of their self-reported numbers showed that their number of drinking days fell from 4.3 to 3.3 per week; that they consumed an average of 7.1 units per drinking day, down from their usual 8.6; and that they were drunk an average of 2.1 times per month as opposed to 3.4 times.

Five Key Benefits

In addition to consuming less alcohol throughout the year, people who persevered through Dry January enjoyed at least five measurable benefits of staying sober. Of those who stuck it out, report de Visser and his team, 88 percent saved money, 71 percent slept better, 70 percent had generally improved health, 67 percent had more energy, and 58 percent lost weight.

Those aren’t bad stats, considering how rough the post-holiday crash can be, especially in terms of physical wellbeing. In 2016, a New England Journal of Medicine article revealed that Americans, on average, increase their weight by about 0.4 percent in the ten days after Christmas compared to the ten days prior.

A Word of Caution

Though helpful as a post-holiday “reset,” Dry January, the team warns, isn’t for everyone. For very heavy or regular drinkers, going cold turkey can be dangerous, resulting in physical withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, nausea, stomach cramps, or hallucinations.

For anyone who thinks they might be susceptible to this sort of withdrawal, it’s best to first consult a doctor before going dry for 31 days. A new app called “Dry January” can provide extra support, helping track alcohol units consumed and calories and money saved during a sober month off.

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