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  • The Merge

Dry January: How a Month Without Alcohol Can Improve Your Health

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

Without Alcohol Can Improve Your Health

Dry January, also known as the "Dry January Challenge," is a growing trend that encourages people to abstain from alcohol for the entire month of January. The idea behind Dry January is to give people a break from alcohol after the indulgences of the holiday season and to raise awareness about the potential negative effects of excessive drinking.

The movement originated in the United Kingdom about 10 years ago in 2013 and has since gained popularity in the United States and other countries.

A charity organization called Alcohol Concern launched the campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol and to encourage people to take a break from drinking. The campaign quickly gained popularity and has since been adopted by other countries around the world.

In 2022, nearly one in five US adults said they would participate in Dry January, up from 13 percent the previous year. An estimated 8.8 million people in the UK also planned to participate in the challenge in 2022.

Dry January gives people a chance to break the cycle of daily or near-daily drinking, and to reflect on their relationship with alcohol. Studies have shown that taking a month-long break from drinking can have immediate health benefits such as improvements in their liver functions, better sleep, weight loss, better skin, and improved blood pressure and biomarkers for insulin resistance, which can decrease the risk of developing diabetes.

Additionally, people who participate in Dry January are more likely to drink less in the long term and to have a healthier relationship with alcohol overall.

However, whether the health benefits last or reach those most in need remains unclear.

Gautam Mehta, an associate professor in hepatology at University College London who has studied the effects of month-long sobriety, states that “this concept, that it’s a one-month detox or spring clean that gets you ready for the rest of the year, I don’t think there’s any evidence for that.” However, people do seem to get a better understanding of their own relationship with alcohol and what they want to do with their relationship with drinking for the rest of the year.

A 2018 study followed a group of moderate drinkers who went sober for a month and compared them to a control group that kept up their old habits. The study found that 59 percent of respondents reported drinking less six months after Dry January, and 32 percent said they were in better physical health. However, only about 38 percent of people who began the survey followed up at the six-month mark.

Taking only a short break doesn’t necessarily give the body enough time to fully recover from the effects of drinking. A 2015 experiment conducted by two British doctors, who are also identical twins, showed that even taking a month off from drinking doesn’t necessarily undo the damage caused by alcohol. The doctors each spent one month sober and then one month drinking 21 units of alcohol weekly. Tests showed that both had increased liver inflammation at the end of the month, indicating that even taking a break from drinking isn’t enough to fully heal the liver.

However, the study also found that rebound drinking and failing to complete the full month were more common in those who had a higher alcohol consumption before the challenge.

Dry January is not just about physical health, it also has mental health benefits. Abstaining from alcohol can reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall mood. It can also give people a chance to take stock of their alcohol consumption and make changes to their drinking habits.

The campaign also raises awareness about the dangers of excessive drinking and the harm it can cause to individuals and society as a whole. Excessive alcohol consumption is a major public health concern, and is a leading cause of death and disability worldwide.

Dry January has grown in popularity over the years, with many people joining the campaign and sharing their experiences on social media. The campaign has also been endorsed by health organizations, celebrities, and politicians.

Overall, Dry January is a personal choice that may help some individuals to better understand their relationship with alcohol and make healthier choices in the long run.


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