Dry January: panacea or needless pain?

With around 40 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women exceeding the government’s recommended alcohol intake of 14 units per week according to Drinkaware - no doubt significantly over Christmas and New Year - Dry January resonates with many of us.

Launched in 2013 by the charity, Alcohol Concern, Dry January encourages people to lay off the booze for the first calendar month of the year. The idea is to demonstrate the health and financial benefits of abstention in the hope that participants will continue to moderate their intake beyond those initial 31 days – even if they don’t convert to teetotalism.

As always with these things, there are opposing stances.

Most people who do Dry January do so only to be smug on social media, say the naysayers. And anyway, most research shows that people who take drastic measures for a set period of time revert back to their old habits when the ordeal is over. Ian Hamilton, lecturer of the department of health sciences at York University, backs up this argument. He says: "It would be better to have two alcohol-free days each week all year rather than one month of abstinence."

Not so, according to Joanna Simons, chief executive at Alcohol Concern. She says: “We know 67 per cent of people who do Dry January with our support are still drinking less six months down the line.” Joanna points to research carried out at the Royal Free Hospital. This demonstrated that among people taking part in Dry January:

  • 79 per cent saved money
  • 62 per cent slept better
  • 49 per cent lost weight

Separate research suggests that a full month off the drink can improve concentration and blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure.

So take your pick. Are you inclined to join the Oxfordshire firefighters in Dry January and raise awareness about the effects of alcohol – or raise funds for Alcohol Concern? Or are you worried your drink-happy partner would derail your efforts?

If you decide against Dry January entirely, you could find some mouthwatering offers available in a bar or restaurant near you. With people reassessing their alcohol intake, getting their finances back on track or simply opting to stay in by the fire instead of braving the icy weather, January is traditionally tough for the hospitality industry. Many outlets are fighting back by reaching out to new customers, offering discounts on experimental or new menus or getting extra creative with their mocktails and hot drinks offerings.

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