Does giving up alcohol for January actually make a difference?
CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV Atlantic
Published Friday, January 4, 2019 5:14PM EST
A new survey of people who participated in “Dry January” – abstaining from alcohol for the month of January – suggests that even temporarily staying away from booze could have yearlong benefits that include sleeping better, saving money and drinking less overall.
Led by a psychologist at the University of Sussex, the survey first questioned more than 2,000 adults in the U.K. who registered for Dry January in 2018. It followed up with them in February and then six months later, in August. The third survey included 816 participants.
Participants reported drinking fewer days on average, from 4.3 days per week to 3.3 days per week. They also consumed less alcohol per day on average and reported being drunk less frequently. More than 80 per cent of those surveyed said they saved money and felt more in control of their drinking.
The participants also reported a variety of other health benefits, ranging from better skin and more energy to weight loss and better sleep.
“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,” said Richard De Visser, the researcher who led the study, in a statement. “This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January.”
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines suggest that men limit their alcohol consumption to 15 drinks per week and women to 10 drinks per week, with a maximum of three drinks per day for men and two drinks per day for women.
The Canadian Cancer Society supports challenges such as Dry January and hosts its own Dry February event.
“We have to start to recognize that (drinking) is very harmful to our health,” Todd Leader, the vice president of support programs for the Canadian Cancer Society in Atlantic Canada, told CTV Atlantic.
He added that many people don’t realize that alcohol – like tobacco – is a carcinogen, known to cause at least five types of cancer.
Nicki Kiepek, a professor in Dalhousie University’s school of occupational therapy, told CTV Atlantic that while making changes such as abstaining from alcohol is “very difficult,” it helps to focus on something besides staying away from drinking, such as exercising, instead.
Jenna Conter is among those Canadians who have resolved to participate in Dry January, choosing instead to stick to drinking coffee.
“I basically realized that now, the age I am, the repercussions of the ‘holiday spirit’ aren’t exactly the easiest thing to get over,” she told CTV Atlantic.
Last year, Conter managed to abstain from drinking alcohol for six months. She doesn’t think this year’s challenge will be any more difficult.
“It’s certainly a lot safer for my loved ones than the time I gave up coffee for a month,” she said.