Press release: one in ten drinkers plan to take on Dry January 2020

Alcohol Change UK | December 2019 | 10 minutes

Four in five adults drink more than they want to at times, according to a new YouGov poll, as one in ten drinkers plan to take on Dry January 2020.

Almost four in five (78%) Brits drink more than they want or intend to, according to a new online YouGov poll commissioned by Alcohol Change UK, the charity behind Dry January.

The research shows that people of all ages drink more than they want to at some points in their life. The reasons for drinking more than planned vary between age groups. Younger people are more likely to drink more than they wanted to because they feel it makes them more outgoing (over a third [36%] of people aged 18-24), while people of all ages find themselves drinking more than they want as a result of drinking in rounds (20% of people).

Over one in five (23%) British adults feel pressured to drink more alcohol than they want to by people they know: mostly by friends (15%) and colleagues (6%). While fewer older people experience this ‘peer pressure’ it never disappears completely, with over one in ten (12%) of those aged 55 and over saying they experience pressure to drink from people including their friends, colleagues and family.

One in ten drinkers in the UK (10%) plan to take on Dry January in 2020, seeking to throw off the pressure and reset their relationship with alcohol.

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said:

“There’s a perception that we leave peer pressure behind at school, but when it comes to alcohol this clearly isn’t the case. Many of us will have had the experience of being encouraged to drink more than we really want to – and pushing others to do the same, particularly at times like Christmas. Even when it’s not as explicit as pushing, little things like drinking in rounds can pile on the pressure to drink more.

“This research shows that lots of us are drinking in ways that we don’t feel comfortable with, but it can be tricky to know how to make a change. Signing up for Dry January is a brilliant place to start. Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialise, and Dry January offers a ready-made response to anyone who tries to pressure us to drink. Strong evidence tells us that signing up for Dry January helps people – even heavy drinkers – to drink more healthily all year round.”

Alcohol Change UK is encouraging people to sign up for Dry January via the free app, Try Dry, to reset their relationship with alcohol and improve their health. Signing up is free and gives you access to great support, tips and tricks, and more. The app allows people to track their units, calories and money saved by not drinking. People who sign-up are twice as likely to be successful compared to those who try to do it alone.

The campaign helps people to drink more healthily year-round, according to independent research conducted by the University of Sussex.

Sue, aged 59 from Stratford-upon-Avon, realised she was drinking more than she wanted to and was putting her health at risk, but her friends reassured her that she was fine. She took part in Dry January in 2018, and said:

“I was drinking every evening and it crept up to three quarters to a full bottle of red wine a night.  I would get anxious if I didn’t have a bottle ready for when I got home. On the odd occasion when I tentatively suggested that I thought I drank a bit too much, friends would say, ‘No, you’re fine’. I wasn’t feeling great and suffering from anxiety, not sleeping well, and with various mystery aches and pains (especially in the mornings) which I put down to my age. I decided to do Dry January. It was hard, but I used the Dry January app which I really liked. I got through January and decided to limit my drinking to Friday and Saturday only, and a maximum of a mini bottle of wine on each of those days.

“I now feel comfortable not drinking alcohol. I have more time, am more productive, feel healthier mentally and physically and sleep better too. I enjoy the freedom of being able go out somewhere and simply enjoy the event. Often friends say they are jealous that I have been able to do it and they think they should cut down or stop as well. I’m still not thinking too far ahead, and know that I can’t be complacent, but I really don’t want to drink alcohol again – my life is so much richer without it.”

Dr Richard Piper adds:

“Many of us know about the health risks of alcohol – seven forms of cancer, liver disease, mental health problems – but we are often unaware that drinking less has more immediate benefits too. Sleeping better, feeling more energetic, saving money, better skin, losing weight… The list goes on. Dry January helps millions to experience those benefits and to make a longer-lasting change.”

People can download Try Dry: the Dry January app to track their units, money and calories saved, plus many more features. Or they can sign up at dryjanuary.org.uk for regular support emails with tips and tricks from experts and others taking part.

Public Health England has endorsed Dry January.

If you drink very heavily or regularly Dry January may not be for you, so check with your GP or local alcohol service before you start. Where an individual is experiencing physical symptoms when they stop drinking (which may include but are not limited to: shakes, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, nausea, stomach cramps or hallucinations) they should seek medical help urgently.

ENDS

For interview requests and briefings please contact:

Maddy Lawson, Head of Communications, Alcohol Change UK

T: 020 3907 8493 / 07814 919 946, E: maddy.lawson@alcoholchange.org.uk

Notes to editors

About the survey

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2002 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18-19 November 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

The figure ‘One in ten drinkers plan to take on Dry January in 2020’ is from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2040 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2-3 December 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 23% of people reported that they did not drink; 10% of the remaining adults were planning to take on Dry January 2020.

Year-round healthier drinking

People who take on Dry January drink more riskily than the general population (as measured by AUDIT-C, a tool developed by the World Health Organisation). Yet six months after the challenge ends their average drinking risk score has decreased dramatically – in contrast to people who do not take on Dry January, whose risk scores remain similar. Previous research showed:

  • Drinking days per week dropped on average from 4.3 to 3.3;
  • Units consumed per drinking day dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1;
  • Frequency of drunkenness fell on average from 3.4 per month to 2.1 per month.

Research by Dr Richard de Visser, University of Sussex, 2018.

The charity behind Dry January

Alcohol Change UK works for a world free from alcohol harm. We fund, commission and share research and information; work to ensure more and better support and treatment; encourage better policy and regulation; shift drinking cultures through our campaigns; and work to change drinking behaviours. Find out more.

How to sign up

People can sign up for Dry January at dryjanuary.org.uk, or by downloading the free app Try Dry: the Dry January app via the App Store or Google Play. People who sign up get access to support, tips and tricks, and more. The app allows people to track their units, calories and money saved not drinking, plus track their drinking year-round.

People who sign up for Dry January, whether online or via the free app, are more likely to make it through the month alcohol-free, despite being heavier drinkers to start with. Amongst those who signed up for the supported Dry January, 70% stayed dry for the whole month, compared to 36% of unsupported participants.

Research by Dr Richard de Visser, University of Sussex, 2019.