Academic research finds taking a break from alcohol can benefit mental health As part of Alcohol Awareness Week 2016, new research compiled by the Public Health Institute has identified that that levels of self-harm were down in the areas where Dry January participants were highest. The Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University have found a direct correlation between reduced episodes of self-harm and those not drinking for a month in January in the North West. Figures from the accident and emergency departments in the area have shown a 9% reduction in the number of people admitted to accident and emergency (A&E) for self harm in January 2016, compared to December 2015. The research found: 54% of those admitted due to self harm are females between 15 and 59 years old Females between 26 and 55 made up 53% of participants in Dry January 2016 Emily Robinson, Director of Campaigns at Alcohol Concern, said: “What this research shows us is that the impact of Dry January goes so much further than just the immediate health benefits. We already know that our model can really change behaviour and reduce drinking, but the benefits to mental wellbeing are only beginning to emerge. “Alcohol harm places a huge burden on society as a whole and we need the government to take action at a national level, but we also believe Alcohol Concern’s Dry January campaign can really help to reduce harm to both individuals and communities at a local level.” Simon Russell, lead researcher at Public Health Institute, said: “The association between alcohol consumption and attendance at A&E is well established. What this research demonstrates is a general reduction in the number of A&E attendances in the first three months of the year compared to previous years. However, the most significant benefits to the campaign may be in the reduction of self-harm attendance rates in January 2016. “Lower rates of attendance for self-harm in January 2016 relative to previous years is a particularly encouraging finding.” Stephen Buckley, Head of Information at Mind, said: “This research suggests an interesting link between taking a break from drinking, decreased rates of self-harm and an increase in wellbeing. Although alcohol is a depressant, many people who are struggling with mental health problems find themselves turning to drink when they’re going through particularly difficult times as a coping strategy - but it can make things worse. “To stay mentally and physically healthy, it’s important to try to achieve a balanced diet, limiting your alcohol, caffeine and sugar consumption, as well as trying to get at least 30 minutes physical activity a day. If you’re worried that someone you care about is self-harming or drinking too much alcohol, it’s really important to let them know you’re there for them whenever they’re ready to talk about how they feel – even if it’s just a text or an email. Listening non-judgementally will help them open up and could give them a nudge to seek support from their GP or local support groups. Support and information is also available on our website (mind.org.uk) or by calling Mind’s confidential Infoline.” The research comes at the same time academic research from the University of Sussex has shown that participants who have completed Alcohol Concern’s behaviour change campaign benefit from higher levels of well-being. The research has found 1 in 4 participants who completed Dry January were more likely to report an improvement in wellbeing.