Why Dry January Isn’t Really About January At All

Why Dry January Isn’t Really About January At All

‘Dry January’, the act of refraining from drinking alcohol for the month of January, is commonplace these days despite being a relatively young phenomenon. A look at its origin and evolution offers insight into a growing movement of self-reflection regarding alcohol consumption that reaches far beyond the month of January. 

Dry January Infographic 

Dry January by the Numbers:

1942  Finnish government launches ‘Sober January’ campaign to aid it’s war effort

2000’s Term ‘Dry January’ gains traction through reporting by Seattle Times’ Nicole Brodeur 

2013 First ever Dry January campaign run by the charity, Alcohol Concern

2014 ‘Dry January’ becomes registered trademark by Alcohol Concern 

2015 Alcohol Concern partners with Public Health England for its Dry January campaign

2021  Dry January Switzerland is bolstered by a broad coalition of non-profits including Blue Cross Switzerland, Staatslabor, and GREA

2021 Poll by Morning Consult shows:

  • 13% of Americans participated in Dry January (compared with 11% in previous years)
  • 79% participated to be healthier
  • 72% to drink less alcohol in general 
  • 63% to ‘reset’ their drinking
  • 49% due to overdrinking during Covid

If these numbers show us anything it’s that Dry January, while relatively young is steadily growing in awareness and participation. Furthermore, It speaks to a larger conversation about being mindful of one’s own alcohol consumption. 

While the immediate benefits, (better quality sleep, increased focus, lowered cholesterol and blood sugar) of taking a break from drinking may be more immediately apparent, what is perhaps more surprising is the extent to which the benefits of Dry January have a significant rollover effect, continuing well after the month has ended. 

In 2013, Alcohol Behavioral Change Expert, Dr. Richard De Visser, University of Sussex, found that: 6 months after the campaign finished, 70% of participants continued to drink less riskily than before. Almost 25% of the participants who were drinking at “harmful” levels before the campaign are now at low-risk levels. These findings speak to the long term benefits that seem to come from the reframing of a mindset around drinking rather than just the physical benefits of taking a break from alcohol consumption. 

Living in a culture where: alcohol is synonomous with basic socializing, celebration, tradition, food consumption, self-reward, (and even 5pm for that matter), its no wonder how easy it is to unwittingly take on a mindset where drinking alcohol takes the form of a thoughtless routine. And this is exactly where the benefits of Dry January become so apparent. 

CEO of Alcohol Change, Rich Piper affirms this sentiment explaining, “The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January. Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize,” he says in the release. “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 benefits of participating in Dry January, both physically and mentally are clear. Paired with the growing availability of quality non-alcoholic options, the barriers to reaching the full benefits of a shift toward mindful drinking simply dissolve. And while the post-holiday months are often be a time in which people socialize least, the act of taking a break from drinking no longer needs to accompany a decision against socializing altogether. You can now freely head to social functions while continuing norms and traditions of cheersing a beautifully crafted cocktail without any of the stigma associated with sobriety.

So if you’ve been on the fence, or simply haven't yet participated in a Dry January, THIS IS YOUR YEAR! The short and long term physical and mental health benefits are well documented, more and more people will be participating along with you, and with the ability to have a delicious, respectable zero-proof cocktail cocktail alongside any craving or social function, you’ve got a whole lot more to look forward to than just February 1st.