Dry January® 2024: Kick-starting a year of change?

Dr Richard Piper | February 2024 | 9 minutes

Back in December, our research showed that one in four UK adults wanted to reduce how much they drink in 2024.

This is a promising sign and is linked to a growing understanding that consuming less alcohol, or just stopping, is a really positive choice. More and more people are embracing the fact that drinking less brings not just the obvious long-term health benefits, but also a host of immediate health benefits, such as improved mood, fewer hangovers, weight loss, reduced anxiety, more energy, better sleep, lower blood pressure, boosted fitness, and brighter skin. Not to mention the money saved.

And what better way to kickstart a year of positive change than with Dry January®, Alcohol Change UK’s habit-busting science-based behaviour change campaign which has been designed to prepare us for long-term change. Independent academic research into the Dry January® programme shows that 70% of those who take part are still drinking less alcohol six months later. And around 13% of people plan to stop drinking alcohol. But interestingly, those who try to go dry on their own in January see hardly any longer-term benefit.

So, how did Dry January® 2024 compare with previous years?

First, we’re delighted that more and more people are joining the programme rather going it alone. In fact, 215,000 people took part globally by using the free programme tools: our Try Dry® app, daily coaching emails, and online communities. This was a 22% increase on our 2023 campaign, and 60% up on our 2022 campaign.

It’s also been a record-breaking year for people downloading the Try Dry® app – with a total of 196,000 app users worldwide (up 18.5% on last year), and over 100,000 users in the UK (a 30% increase).

But Dry January®’s success is about so much more than numbers. It’s about the people behind them. Already in February we’ve heard from many people who have shared how they are experiencing real changes in their own lives. Here’s a small, anonymised selection:

"I LOVE the calendar feature on the Try Dry® app. I LOVE putting my teacup there every day and it’s a great visual for monitoring alcohol use, moderation, sober curious living, etc. I’ve done [DIY] dry Januarys before and always ended up back where I started. First time using the app & calendar and it’s REALLY helping!!"

Another shared how a previously boozy day out has changed after Dry January®: “I was initially nervous [...] expecting to struggle not having a drink. Historically… it’s about going to pubs and drinking as much ale as possible. I have to say I surprised myself. We visited the old pubs because I can’t resist an old pub, but it turns out I could resist the [alcohol]. Found myself not even looking at the hand pumps and just straight up asking if they had alcohol free. Very proud of myself and the day went much better than expected.”

“I went to my first yoga class in years tonight. Wouldn’t have wanted to before because it would have got in the way of my wine drinking time after work ... but I didn’t even think about that for the first time for as long as I remember! I felt so emotional at the end I actually almost cried. I really feel like this a turning point for my life. Thank you Dry January®!!!”

“[I] did Dry January® to challenge myself and give me a break having been the typical middle aged drinker. Most evenings, half a bottle or a few cans. I was looking forward to having a drink on the 1st [Feb]. [My] wife brought out a can of cider. Normally that wouldn’t have touched the sides, but I found myself reluctant to open it. Ended up waiting for a bit then put it away and didn’t open anything despite having spirits and wine in the house. Today being a Friday, I told myself I could have a drink, but again I am reluctant. I don’t wish to be a total abstainer and this may not last, but doing Dry January® has made me think ‘Do I want this drink’' and be able to rationalise whether that is true.”

And from someone who did Dry January® 2023:

“Have stuck to my plan of moderation of 4 [days] off each week for one year now. Was amazing how doing Dry January® reset me. I still use the [Try Dry®] app to keep me on track.”

It’s brilliant that more and more people are experiencing that long-term change for themselves, year after year.

Keeping the benefits

Now that Dry January® is over, check in with yourself. Perhaps you feel more productive, have a boosted mood, or are just generally healthier. You might have also realised that you don’t need alcohol to have fun, relax, or socialise.

That’s a big deal! As you move forward, you might want to moderate your drinking or continue your alcohol-free journey to improve your long-term health. Whatever your plans, our Try Dry® app is designed for year-round use and can really help you to manage your drinking health and set personalised goals to keep you on track.

And if you’re missing the challenge or looking for some further inspiration, Sober Spring is just around the corner!

Finally, if you're one of the thousands of people who have felt the benefits of Dry January® and our resources, please share your story, tell a friend, or leave a review on App Store (Apple devices) or Google Play (Android devices) and help us spread the word!

Dry January® is just the start of a year of change, and this year we’re delighted that we have more people on the journey with us than ever before.