More than 3m people in the UK plan to turn their alcohol clocks to zero for a month from January 1st, joining an increasingly popular annual initiative to realise the multiple benefits of lower levels of drinking.
Alcohol Concern’s Dry January provides information, support and extra motivation for those taking a break. There is a free app to track our progress and the chance to raise money for charity.
The popularity of the annual lay-off is easily explained, says the charity’s chief executive Richard Piper: “The benefits are astounding”. Around half of those who take part find they lose weight, two-thirds sleep better and over three-quarters save money. It may also lift depression and anxiety.
Parents and the middle-aged were the most likely to be joining in this year, according to a survey of 2,000 people, with parents of more than two children particularly keen, as are people in full-time employment and those from the North East and Northern Ireland.
“Alcohol is the biggest cause of death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49 in the UK–but these tragedies are all totally avoidable,” says Piper. It is among the reasons the annual reset has the support of Public Health England.
The benefits of a mass alcohol reset can add up. It contributes significantly to an annual cost to the NHS or around £3.5bn, or £120 per taxpayer. The burden reaches its peak in December as Christmas parties end in injury, alcohol poisoning and violence.
Success is not uniform, although we can still benefit even if we do not make it to the end. In the past around two-thirds of participants made it through January without drinking any alcohol, while nearly three-quarters were sticking to lower levels of harmful drinking six months later.
Realising the full benefits of not drinking much alcohol can often take longer. Typically getting rid of withdrawal symptoms like emotional instability and memory issues takes between three months and a year. ■