Losing weight, more energy, better sleep and a healthier relationship with alcohol. They’re the benefits of Dry January as new research shows nearly 1 in 5 people (18%) who drink alcohol or 7.9 million people are planning to take a month off alcohol in the New Year.
Balance with North Tyneside Council are encouraging people to download Alcohol Change UK’s free app, Try Dry®, and take part in Dry January® to double their chances of having a successful alcohol-free month. The North East in 2020-21 saw the highest rate of Dry January sign ups of any region.
With the free Try Dry app people can track units, calories and money saved, and set personal goals through the month.
Nearly 9/10 Dry January participants report saving money, 7/10 say they slept better and 6/10 said they lost weight. It can also help people to cut down long-term: research has found 70% taking on Dry January are still drinking less six months later but this only applied to those who used the Try Dry app or coaching emails.
Research shows many people are drinking more heavily due to the additional stresses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. New research shows that:
- almost three in 10 drinkers (28%) have found themselves drinking more in 2021, compared to 2020.
- around one in six drinkers (17%) feel concerned about the amount they have been drinking since the removal of COVID-19 restrictions in the summer.
- a quarter (25%) would like to reduce the amount they drink in 2022
Dr Alexandra Kent, Medical Director for North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Taking a break from alcohol can bring about many health and wellbeing benefits as well as saving you money. The Dry January challenge grows in popularity each year and I’d encourage anyone who has not tried it yet to give it a go. A month off alcohol can help you sleep better, lose weight and boost your mood and immune system and an overall reduction in your alcohol intake can reduce your risk of further ill health leading to a healthier 2022 and beyond.
“For information on cutting down alcohol use, please visit www.northtyneside.gov.uk. I would also encourage anyone who is concerned about a family or friend’s drinking to seek help and support – the PROPS service is available in North Tyneside to anyone whose life is affected by someone else’s drinking. Please see www.props.org.uk for more information.”
It’s estimated around four in 10 people in the North East – or around 855,000 people – have been drinking above the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance of no more than 14 units a week – enough to significantly raise the risks from alcohol.
As well as supporting Dry January, Balance the North East Alcohol programme will also be launching for the first time a New Year health harms alcohol campaign to warn that alcohol causes cancers of the breast, bowel, mouth and throat. It comes as the region has seen the worst rate of alcohol deaths in the country.
Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “It can be hard to break drinking habits but millions of people will be doing Dry January and hoping to feel the benefits. Taking a month off alcohol can give you more energy, make you feel more positive, sleep better and help you lose weight. People who take part often say they feel invigorated and don’t miss a night drinking.
“Equally important is that taking time off alcohol can help reset your relationship with alcohol and help you cut down your drinking longer term. However stressful things might feel, alcohol is never the answer and never going to make us feel better. Too much alcohol raises the risks of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It is fantastic to see how many people took part last January and we hope thousands of people give it a go again this year.
She added: “As well as supporting Dry January, this year Balance will also be launching an alcohol health harms campaign from December 27. This to counter the worrying numbers of people drinking at risky levels in our region. We know people who are more aware of the risks are more likely to take a break from drinking. Just like tobacco, alcohol causes cancer and people have a right to know this.”
2022 is a chance for a new start. A month off alcohol can deliver real benefits, such as lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, lower cholesterol, and reduce levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.
A break from alcohol can also help you lose weight. A standard glass of red or white wine can contain around 160 calories (Alcohol Change) – that’s around four Jaffa cakes (Fitbit). And a pint of 5% lager can have around 220 calories (Alcohol Change) – the same as a Mars Bar and nearly as many as a McDonald’s hamburger (Fitbit).
Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: “We know that things are feeling uncertain at the moment and lots of us will be looking for ways to try to cope. As the pandemic continues to take its toll, research consistently shows that, for many people who were already drinking heavily, our drinking habits may have taken a turn for the worse.
“With many of us experiencing heightened levels of stress, it’s hardly surprising that some of us might be drinking more without realising.
“The good news is that being in control of our drinking can improve our overall health and wellbeing. And that’s where Dry January® comes in. It offers the opportunity for a total reset. 31 days to try something new. Sleep better and have more energy, improve your mental health and concentration, look fabulous and get brighter skin, save money and feel an amazing sense of achievement.
“What’s more, over 70% of people who do Dry January® continue to drink less six months later – so it’s an investment in your health and happiness year-round. “Dry January® isn’t about giving something up. It’s about getting something back.”
In November, Balance launched the Alcohol Causes Cancer campaign to highlight that alcohol can cause at least seven types of cancer including breast, bowel, mouth and throat cancer. The North East experiences the country’s highest rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions in the country.
For anyone dependent on alcohol, stopping drinking can be dangerous. Speak to a GP who will be able to get help for you to reduce your drinking safely, call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 or speak to a GP who will be able to get help for you to reduce your drinking safely.
Five top tips to help you get through Dry January
- Remember why you’re doing Dry January: 2020 and 2021 have been tough years and we all want to go into 2022 feeling better. Whether you’re sick of feeling tired and groggy, want to lose weight, feel more positive, save money or reach your health and fitness goals, write down the reasons that you’re taking part and these can help you keep going.
- Work out your triggers from drinking: Lots of us have ‘triggers’ that make us reach for a glass of wine or a beer. It might be the end of a long day, stress or boredom. If you can work out what your triggers are then you can recognise them and try and avoid them.
- Treat yourself: Many of us use alcohol as our go-to way to destress or treat ourselves. Think of other ways to be kind to yourself, like having a bath, phoning a friend, getting out for a walk or playing a video game.
- Get support: Your chance of success improves if you get support. You could do it with a friend or a partner. You can also sign up for free and download the Try Dry app, which has lots of tips for Dry January and helps you track your drinking, calories and units, year round.
- Think about the future you: Dry January is a great way to kick start a healthier relationship with alcohol longer term. Once it’s over, check in with yourself. Cutting down can make you healthier and happier through the year. As well as the many benefits, you’ll realise that you don’t need alcohol to relax, have fun or socialise.
Alcohol – the risks
Here’s how alcohol can affect us:
Immune system: Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases such as coronavirus
Cancer: alcohol raises the risks of at least seven types of cancer – of the breast, bowel, mouth, larynx, oesophagus, upper throat and liver. See more at http://www.reducemyrisk.tv/types-of-cancer/
Heart: Drinking can have a harmful effect on your heart. Alcohol can cause abnormal heart rhythms and damage to your heart muscle.
Stroke: alcohol can increase your risk of stroke, even if you don’t drink very large amounts. And if you’ve had a stroke, alcohol could increase your risk of another stroke. This is because alcohol contributes to a number of medical conditions that are risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, an irregular heartbeat and liver damage.
Blood pressure: Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels which can lead to other serious health conditions. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. More than 1 in 4 adults nationally are living with high blood pressure.
Mental health: Alcohol is sometimes used by people to try and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, but excessive drinking is likely to make those symptoms worse. About 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.
Liver: Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time means the liver doesn’t get a chance to recover. This can result in serious and permanent damage. Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, which is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year olds.
Weight: many people aren’t sure about the number of calories in their drinks but reducing your drinking is an important way to help you lose weight. Being overweight can lead to many serious health conditions and can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and vascular dementia.