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Does ‘Dry January’ improve health?

As we approach the end of January and people doing ‘Dry January’ prepare to either fall off the wagon or make long-term changes in their alcohol consumption, it’s a good time to look at whether going alcohol-free for a month really does have an impact on health, and whether there are other more effective strategies.

A month off

Millions of people across the country have taken on the challenge of ‘Dry January’ – not drinking any alcohol for the whole of the month. For some this is their annual break from the booze, for others the start of a longer-term plan to reduce their alcohol consumption, and for some an opportunity to balance out the December festivities.

Dry January is run by the charity Alcohol Concern, and has become increasingly popular. However, there are conflicting views about the impact it has.

Health improvements

A study from 2013, published in New Scientist magazine, found that 10 colleagues who gave up alcohol for a month showed significant health improvements compared to four who didn’t, including a 15% reduction in liver fat. Another study found that around 60% of people doing Dry January in 2015 said they then drank on fewer days a week than the previous year, following their month off.

There are some clear immediate health benefits to taking a month off alcohol, with many people reporting that it helps them to sleep better, concentrate more and reduces anxiety. It can also help people to lose weight as they’re not consuming the calories that alcoholic drinks contain. 

All or nothing approach

However, there hasn’t been any significant research into the long-term impact of Dry January, and some experts have expressed concern that the ‘all or nothing’ approach could mean people return to drinking at their usual levels, if not more, once February hits.

Long-term strategies

Experts generally agree that a longer-term reduction in alcohol may be more beneficial. For example increasing the number of days during a week that you don’t have alcohol. The NHS recommends that you have several days a week of no alcohol, and drink no more than 14 units a week.

Other recommendations include drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating alcoholic drinks with water. 

Combination strategy

Dry January can help people to reassess their drinking and take stock of what long-term changes they perhaps need to make to reduce their alcohol intake, combined with a long-term aim of reducing their drinking year in year out, not just in January.

This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Healthcare unless explicitly stated.
Additional comments on the page from individual Consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Consultants or Ramsay Healthcare.

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