Dry January—where participants put down alcohol for a month—has commenced, and research shows the challenge comes with health benefits like improved sleep, weight loss, lowered blood pressure and more energy.
Dry January is a popular trend started by advocacy group Alcohol Change U.K. where participants abstain from drinking alcohol for the entire month of January in hopes of reaping health benefits.
Though it was started in the U.K., millions of Americans participate each year: 35% of American adults participated in the challenge in 2022 compared to 21% in 2019, according to data from international data and insight agency CGA Strategy.
Excessive alcohol use comes with health risks like cancer, heart or liver disease, high blood pressure, miscarriage, depression, anxiety, alcohol dependence, stroke, or a weakened immune system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Regular drinkers who abstained from alcohol for 30 days saw an improvement in sleep and energy, and also lowered their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and cancer-causing proteins, according to a 2018 study published in BMJ Open.
Around 90% of people who participated in Dry January in 2018 saved money, 71% had improved sleep, 58% lost weight, 54% saw an improvement in their skin and 67% had more energy, according to a 2019 study by the University of Sussex.
Six months after they completed Dry January, participants on average drank one day less per week, and consumed around one drink less each day they did drink, compared to their alcohol intake before the challenge, a 2016 study by the American Psychological Association found.
Though Dry January can be helpful for moderate drinkers, it’s not recommended for those who are alcohol dependent. Alcohol Change U.K. warns “people who are clinically alcohol dependent can die if they suddenly, completely stop drinking.” Stopping alcohol cold turkey can result in alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which includes symptoms like nausea and vomiting, sweating, high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, rapid heart rate and tremors or shakes. If left untreated, it can progress to violent seizures, delirium tremens (a life-threatening form of withdrawal with symptoms like fever, high blood pressure and hallucinations) or even death. Instead, it’s recommended to consult a medical professional for a safe medical detox.
Sober October is another popular abstinence challenge where participants don’t drink for the entire month of October, and money raised goes toward Macmillan Cancer Support. During this month, participants often turn toward non-alcoholic drinks. The no- and low-alcohol drinks market is booming, and it’s expected to grow by 25% between 2022 and 2026, according to data from drinks market analysis firm IWSR. The industry made over $11 billion in 2022, with no-alcohol products leading the charge. A growing number of celebrities from Bella Hadid to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have even joined in and created non-alcoholic drinks in recent years. This trend is in part driven by the growing “sober curious” lifestyle, which means a person is considering going sober from alcohol. The movement is popular among Gen Z and millennials, and the hashtag #sobercurious has over 805 million views on TikTok.
THE BIG NUMBER
381.5 million. That’s how many views the hashtag #dryjanuary has on TikTok. It’s full of users sharing their sober tips, favorite mocktails and past experiences.