Weight loss and more money: Dry January changes lifestyle habits

From weight loss to better sleep and more money: Dry January helps people change their lifestyle habits – even MONTHS later, study finds

  • Participants in 2018 were surveyed on the effects immediately and in August
  • People’s relationship with alcohol improved as they got drunk less often 
  • The findings suggest the 31-day challenge can ‘change lives’, campaigners said
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Going sober for January could lead to weight loss, better sleep, improved skin and more money, according to a study.

Those who took part in Dry January earlier this year reported that they had thought about their relationship with drink while doing the challenge. 

Seven months later, in August, the participants were still drinking less, suggesting it helps people change habits in the long-term. 

The findings show that assessing your relationship with drink for the 31 day period can ‘change lives’, according to campaigners. 

Going sober for Dry January could lead to weight loss, better sleep, better skin and more money, according to a study conducted at the University of Sussex

One in ten people who drink alcohol are planning to take part in Dry January in 2019, a survey by YouGov suggests. 

‘The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January,’ Dr Richard de Visser, who led the research, said.

‘Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialise. 

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‘That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.’

The study, conducted at University of Sussex, used three different surveys that participants of Dry January completed online.


The University of Sussex study found that:   

• 93% of participants had a sense of achievement;

• 88% saved money;

• 82% think more deeply about their relationship with drink;

• 80% feel more in control of their drinking;

• 76% learned more about when and why they drink;

• 71% realised they don’t need a drink to enjoy themselves;

• 70% had generally improved health;

• 71% slept better;

• 67% had more energy;

• 58% lost weight;

• 57% had better concentration;

• 54% had better skin.

A total of 2,821 took part upon registering for Dry January, 1,715 in the first week of February, and 816 participants in August.

Participants reported their drinking days fell on average from 4.3 to 3.3 per week, and the units consumed per drinking day dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1.

The amount of times they got drunk also dropped from 3.4 times per month to 2.1 times, on average, according to the findings, which were not published in a scientific journal. 

There were also considerable immediate benefits. Nine in ten people said they had saved money, seven in ten said they sleep better, half had better skin and three in five reported to have lost weight.  

Dr Visser said: ‘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.’ 

A poll undertaken for Alcohol Change UK, who run the Dry January campaign, showed one in ten people who drink – an estimated 4.2million people in the UK – are already planning to do Dry January in 2019.

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said: ‘Put simply, Dry January can change lives. 

‘We hear every day from people who took charge of their drinking using Dry January, and who feel healthier and happier as a result.

‘Many of us know about the health risks of alcohol – seven forms of cancer, liver disease, mental health problems – but we are often unaware that drinking less has more immediate benefits too. 

‘Sleeping better, feeling more energetic, saving money, better skin, losing weight… The list goes on. 

‘Dry January helps millions to experience those benefits and to make a longer-lasting change to drink more healthily.’


One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.

The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.

To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.


0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.

Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.

8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).

16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.

20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.

Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.

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