Date: 13.11.14

Academic research reveals Dry January leads to less drinking all year round

Author: alcoholconcern


As the 2015 Dry January campaign launches, new academic research shows that participants who have completed Alcohol Concern’s behaviour change campaign are now drinking less, and also drinking in less harmful ways.

Evidence shows six months after completing a Dry January, participants are now not only drinking less frequently and drinking less per drinking day, but they’re also getting drunk less.

The research, compiled independently by the University of Sussex, comes after Alcohol Concern released figures in October which showing 9.6 million people in England are now drinking in excess of recommended daily limits. 

The headline results after are:
• 72% of participants had sustained reduced levels of harmful drinking six months after completing Dry January
• The 23% of people who had “harmful” alcohol consumption when they started Dry January are now in the “low risk” category
• 4% of participants were still dry six months on

Speaking on the launch of Dry January, Emily Robinson, Director of Campaigns at Alcohol Concern, said: “The long term effects of Dry January have previously been questioned, with people asking if a month booze-free would cause people to binge drink once the 1st February comes around. This research is the proof of how, with the help, advice and support we offer throughout the month, our model can really change behaviour and reduce drinking.

“Given the huge burden alcohol misuse has on society as a whole, we need the government to take action at a national level, but we also believe Alcohol Concern’s Dry January campaign can really help individuals take a positive step towards cutting down their drinking and improve their health.” 

In addition to these changes toward healthier drinking, the research found that after completing Dry January both men and women felt more confident that they could refuse alcohol in social situations, when feeling worried or upset, and in situations where they would normally have had a drink.

The research also highlighted that taking part in Dry January was linked to reductions in alcohol consumption and increased confidence to say no to a drink, regardless of success of completing the month. It was the act of committing to the campaign that was important.

Dr Richard De Visser, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sussex who led the research, said: “What’s really interesting to see is that these changes in alcohol consumption were also seen in the participants who didn’t complete the whole month alcohol free. Even if participants took part but didn’t successfully complete the 31 days, it generally led to a significant decrease across all the measures of alcohol intake.”

The campaign, which is launching ahead of the 2014 Alcohol Awareness Week, will be in partnership with Public Health England.

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “We are very pleased to be partnering with Alcohol Concern on Dry January as research has shown that a month of abstinence can help people reset their relationship with alcohol”.

“Over consumption of alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions including cancer, depression and dementia and yet more than half of adults who drink do so at a level above the recommended guidance. Dry January has proved to be successful in helping people moderate their drinking and benefit from a healthier lifestyle, which is why Public Health England is supporting the initiative.”  

After completing Dry January participants also highlighted what benefits they experienced after 31 days alcohol free:
• 82% of participants felt a sense of achievement    
• 79% of participants saved money         
• 62% of participants had better sleep      
• 62% of participants had more energy     
• 49% of participants lost weight   

Jane Appleton, Dry January participant, said: “I first took part in Dry January in 2013. A few years of some stressful jobs had left me reaching for the red wine at night as an automatic response and I knew that wasn’t great.
“Both years I have started February feeling fantastically healthy. Dry January has definitely changed my attitude to drinking.”

Notes to editors

Dry January campaign spokespeople are available for interview please contact Cara Barrett via email cbarrett@alcoholconcern.org.uk or call on 020 7566 9803.

1. More information about the study

The study was completed independently by the University of Sussex to address a lack of information about characteristics associated with successful completion of a planned period of abstinence or how success or failure in planed abstinence affects subsequent alcohol consumption. Participants were surveyed three times, before they started Dry January (baseline), at the beginning of February and then again in August.
Levels of harmful drinking were measured through the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), a simple screening tool which is designed to pick up early signs of hazardous and harmful drinking.
Drink Refusal Self-Efficacy (DRSE) was measured in relation to social pressure, emotional relief, and opportunistic drinking.

2. More information about Dry January
Dry January is a campaign by Alcohol Concern aimed at the social drinker, encouraging them to give up alcohol for a month. It is not a medical detox programme.

For the 2015 campaign, Alcohol Concern are partnering with Public Health England.
Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.

Find out more at www.dryjanuary.org.uk, follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/DryJanuary and Twitter @dryjanuary and use the hashtag #DryJanuary2015.

Dry January 2014 in numbers
• 17,312 people took part with us online – over 400% more than 2013
• 25,077 likes on Facebook
• 3,461 followers on Twitter
• 800 + pieces of media coverage
• 10 online advice sessions with more than 10,000 people tuning in to each one
• Dry January is a registered trademark of Alcohol Concern 

3. Information about Alcohol Awareness Week
The week runs from 17th – 24th November. The theme for the week is “Facing our alcohol problem – taking back our health and high streets”. The following hashtag is being used #AAW14