Traditionally, alcohol-related “challenges” have involved seeing how much college kids can drink before requiring medical attention. For "Dry January," the goal is quite different. This challenge, which has roots in a 2014 campaign promoted by the nonprofit Alcohol Change UK, invites participants to give up alcoholic drinks for the entire month. While that might seem to have only short-term consequences of increased lucidity and non-slurred speech, a new survey indicates the benefits of "Dry January" might last for months.
Researchers at the University of Sussex took a closer look at people who underwent the challenge in 2017 and then followed up to see how the dry spell might have changed their drinking habits. Of the 2821 people surveyed, they were able to follow up with 1715 of them in February and 816 in August. Collectively, respondents reported drinking one less day per week than they did prior to the challenge—an average of 3.3 days, down from 4.3 days. They drank a lesser volume of alcohol overall and also stated they got drunk less often, with an average of 2.1 days spent per month pretty much hammered, down from 3.4 days prior to the challenge.
Richard de Visser, the University of Sussex psychologist who headed up the survey, said in a press release that taking the month off may have helped people reconsider the role of alcohol in their lives, with a large percentage of respondents reporting better sleep and more energy during their teetotaling. De Visser also stated that people who failed to complete the challenge—meaning they drank alcohol before January came to a close—also reported decreased consumption overall.
Because the survey was self-reported, it’s possible their impressions of their own alcohol consumption are inaccurate—as with food, people tend to underestimate. But abstaining during "Dry January" still carries a demonstrable series of benefits, from saving money on booze to weight loss. Try it yourself and see.