After a gluttonous holiday season, many people try to cut back on food and drink in January to shed excess pounds and give their bodies a rest. For the past few years, Dry January, in which people abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year, has grown in popularity. New scientific data reveals that the benefits of even refraining from drinking for a short period of time can have lasting positive effects on people’s physical and mental health, as well as their financial wellbeing.
Researchers at the University of Sussex have been analyzing the effects of Dry January, which was established in 2014 by Alcohol Change, a leading alcohol charity in the UK formed by Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK. In a new study, the researchers evaluated more than 800 people who participated in Dry January last year, observing that giving up alcohol for a month helped many volunteers drink less and less often, as well as to reclaim some sense of control over their drinking.
The study's participants reported sleeping better and losing weight when they abstained from alcohol for a month. The Alcohol Change website features a Dry January app that can be downloaded for free that allows users to track their dry days as well as units, calories and money saved.
“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,” said Dr. Richard de Visser, the lead author of the study author.
Interestingly, researchers found that simply taking a break from drinking for the month of January helped many drink less throughout the rest of the year. Participants in general reported feeling better healthwise and under less financial strain. More than 50 percent of study participants also noted benefits such as improved skin complexion, enhanced concentration, and greater energy levels.
Excessive drinking is currently the third leading preventable cause of death in the US. Globally, alcohol abuse is responsible for approximately three million deaths a year. These dire statistics have compelled American disease prevention and public health experts to recommend that physicians screen all adults for alcohol abuse. In the UK, alcohol abuse is the greatest risk factor for death, illness and disability among 15 to 49 year-olds and the fifth greatest risk factor across all ages.