Every January, most of us pledge to work on ourselves. Some try to abstain from alcohol for the month. But does Dry January make us healthier?


Your social media is probably flooded with self-improvement posts right now. 

Maybe even a couple of announcements from loved ones saying they’re staying sober for the whole month of January. 

Around the world, the tradition is growing in popularity. 

In the UK, where the campaign started in 2013, more than 8.5 million people said they planned to stay off the booze for a month this year, according to a poll run by Alcohol Change UK. In 2013, only 4,000 signed up for the challenge. 

But how much difference can a teetotal month make to our health? 

The dangers of alcohol consumption are well established, with alcohol abuse among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, according to The Lancet.

Almost one in five Europeans reported having heavy drinking episodes – more than six units of alcohol in one sitting – at least once a month in 2019.

Long-term excessive alcohol consumption increases your risk of:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Cancer, particularly breast cancer and esophageal cancer
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure

There is no safe level of drinking, say the World Health Organisation. Avoiding alcohol is the only way to avoid its damaging effects.

Observing Dry January has been shown to impart significant health benefits, according to multiple studies.

Two of them were carried out by Dr Rajiv Jalan, professor of hepatology at University College London (UCL). Although not a randomised study, Jalan said the results were striking.

“The most important one that we saw in patients was the feeling of energy, as well as increased concentration and sleep. Most of them lost weight, nearly 2 to 3 kilograms over one month,” he told Euronews referring to a study he conducted on a small group of staff from the New Scientist magazine in 2013.

In 2018, Dr Jalan completed new research on a larger group of hospital workers who decided to partake in the challenge compared to other individuals who did not. 

“We followed people up after three to six months to ask what impact Dry January had on them. And in general terms, they felt so good in this month that they were more scared to drink during the week. In the following six months, their alcohol consumption stayed low,” he explained. 

The only downside Jalan found was that people said: “They felt they were boring company at parties.”

A negative boomerang effect?

However, a2021 study found that Dry January could trigger a negative boomerang effect like a restrictive diet. 

The British Liver Trust suggests staying off the booze two or three days every week, allowing the liver to recover regularly, rather than abstaining for one month and then going back to old habits. 

But Joe Marley, Director of Communications at Alcohol Change UK, says studies have shown otherwise.


“It’s a little bit of a myth that people kind of boomerang when they take part in Dry January. Seven in ten people are drinking more mindfully, in a healthier way, even six months down the line. So there’s not really any evidence for that cliff edge at the end of January that people kind of fall back into old habits,” he told Euronews. 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t partake in Dry January?

According to all the experts we talked to, the campaign is meant for social drinkers, not for people seeking recovery from alcohol abuse. 

“If you are physically dependent on alcohol to the point where you would experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms, then Dry January isn’t right for you. It could be life-threatening. If you think that you’re in that scenario, it’s still possible to take control of your drinking, but you need to have a conversation with your GP,” warned Marley.