British Columbia

New year, no beer: Dry January's increasing popularity offers benefits, researchers say

Many people spend the now-concluded holiday season eating — and drinking — way too much. To make up for it, some abstain from alcohol during the first month of the year: a trend called “Dry January” which is growing in popularity.

New research from UK university finds most participants in alcohol-free month benefit long-term

Some people undertake a "Dry January" after overindulging on holiday drinks. (Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Many people spend the now-concluded holiday season eating — and drinking — way too much.

To make up for it, some abstain from alcohol during the first month of the year. It's a trend called "Dry January" and experts say it is growing in popularity.  

Tim Stockwell, director of the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research in Victoria, says a month off drinking, even for social drinkers, can have real benefits.

"It's a decision we can all make, and I think the advantage of something like this is challenging yourself discovering what [alcohol] does for you," Stockwell told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

"Having the experience of trying to go without for a month, you also experience how central it is in our social and cultural lives."

Stockwell pointed to recent research from the University of Sussex that found the majority of people who participated in Dry January challenges experienced long-term benefits.

For instance, 88 per cent of participants found they saved money; 71 per cent slept better; 67 per cent had more energy and 58 per cent lost weight.

"The simple act of taking a month off alcohol helps people drink less in the long term: by August people are reporting one extra dry day per week," researcher Richard de Visser said in a statement.

"Interestingly, these changes in alcohol consumption have also been seen in the participants who didn't manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month — although they are a bit smaller. This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January."

Stockwell encourages people to attempt a month without alcohol.

"It's not just January: there's 'Sober October,' there's 'Dry July," he said, adding the trend seems to be catching on with young people. "We're a bit puzzled as to why that's the case."

Listen to the full interview:

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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