Dry January really does work because it focuses on health benefits

Dry January really DOES work because it focuses on positive health benefits instead of negative messages about drinking too much, study finds

  • Dry January allows people to learn more about themselves, study has claimed
  • People who try it out will feel as if they are better at fulfilling their potential 
  • Around five million will try giving up alcohol this January for the initiative  

‘Dry January’ really does work because it focuses on positive ideas of good health rather than negative messages about drinking too much, a research project has found. 

It said that people who give up alcohol for the weeks after New Year are inspired by the benefits it brings them in fitness, better mental health and a succession of good nights’ sleep – and not by grave warnings of the damage alcohol can do to them.

Ministers and officials should learn from the success of Dry January and think again about publicly-funded health campaigns that highlight the bad effects for those who fail to cut down on drink, the analysts from Leeds University said.

‘Health campaigns have traditionally focused on messages around the effects of alcohol, but Dry January focuses on the positives to encourage people to become new, low alcohol versions of themselves,’ Dr Henry Yeomans, the chief author of the report, said.

‘It allows people to learn about themselves and feel as if they are better fulfilling their potential.’

‘Dry January’ really does work because it focuses on positive ideas of good health rather than negative messages about drinking too much, study finds. File image used 

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Findings from the study, which was based on the responses of more than 2,500 social media users to promotions published by the Alcohol Concern charity, were published as an estimated five million people prepare to take part in the Dry January exercise.

The Dry January idea – a longstanding habit among some drinkers who use the post-Christmas period to take a break from hangovers – has expanded in recent years and has now been taken up by alcohol charity campaigners.

The Leeds study said that Dry January followers are not interested in the charity fundraising often carried out by those who succeed in resisting alcohol for the month, but that they were motivated by personal benefits.

Participants talk about the quality of their sleep, their appearance, energy levels, weight loss, self-belief and their surprise at finding they have willpower, it said.

The report added: ‘Dry January differs from many government health campaigns from around the world, as it reinforces the positive experiences that come from abstaining from alcohol, rather than highlighting the effects of alcohol and the health impacts of drinking.’

More and more young people are opting for ‘Veganuary’ instead of Dry January 

It said that ‘Government agencies might consider reshaping alcohol policies in the light of the popularity and apparent success of this campaign.’

Dr Yeomans, Associate Professor in Criminology and Criminal Justice at the university’s law school, said that Dry January ‘makes a substantial impact on the lives of a great number of participants.

‘It brings physical, psychological and emotional benefits in both the short-term and the long-term. 

‘Participants generally feel that they are gaining something rather than losing something by abstaining for one month. Dry January is not about self-control or self-denial; it is about self-formation.’

The paper, published in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, criticised past taxpayer-funded alcohol campaigns which warned over the effects of limited quantities of alcohol.

These included a 2012 Change4Life project which told people that just two drinks a day ‘could lead to lots of nasty things like a stroke, breast cancer or heart disease.’

In 2008 a campaign called ‘Units. They All Add Up,’ was based around film of people drinking small quantities at different times. 

‘It told viewers that going over the recommended limit for a day ‘could add up to a serious health problem.’

The Leeds report said: ‘In both instances, the campaign materials thus used essentially negative tools in an attempt to prompt individuals to reduce their drinking by making them fearful of the long-term consequences of not doing so.’

It comes in the wake of a row between anti-alcohol campaigners last year (sub: 2018) over how strongly to condemn drink and whether to co-operate with the alcohol industry.

The taxpayer-funded Public Health England joined industry-subsidised organisations to push a ‘drink-free days’ plan, which encouraged middle-aged people to leave days free from alcohol.

However prominent advisers to Public Health England threatened to quit because they believed that co-operating with alcohol producers and retailers would undermine attempts to cut consumption.

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