The Dry January story

Dry January started in 2012 with 4,000 people. It's come a long way since then, with over 100,000 signing up and 4 million taking part in 2018.

2011

In 2011 Emily Robinson signs up for her first half marathon. It’s due to take place in February. She doesn’t like running much so to make the training easier, she decides to give up booze in January. She loses weight, sleeps better and feels like she has more energy to do the run.

But something else happens...

Everyone wants to talk to her about what it’s like to give up drinking for a bit.

2012

In January 2012, Emily joins Alcohol Change UK. She’s decided to give up drinking again this January. Now that she works for Alcohol Change UK, even more people want to talk to her about giving up drinking for a month. This sparks off lots of different conversations about the benefits of having a break from drinking – especially after Christmas.

That got us thinking. If we got more people having a break from booze in January, could we more people thinking about their drinking? And would they drink less after their month off because actually they enjoyed the break so much?

The idea for the Dry January campaign was born.

2013

The first Dry January. We kicked off the first year of the campaign with Alastair Campbell talking about his past drinking, and columnist Peter Oborne trying out the month off booze.

A debate about the usefulness of giving up alcohol for a month kicks off. Can a month alcohol-free really make a difference long-term?

We decided to work with alcohol behaviour change expert Dr Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex. He volunteered for free to survey the people taking part in Dry January to see what effects taking part in the campaign has on them.

De Visser found that six months after the campaign has finished, seven out of ten people have continued to drink less riskily than before. Almost a quarter of the people who were drinking at “harmful” levels before the campaign are now in the low risk category.

2014

Everyone is talking about Dry January. Some people question whether it means hiding away for a month. But we say no, the whole point of a month off is that you’ll have a test at some point, an event or meal out and the trick is, can you turn that drink down? As Prof Matt Field explains, willpower is a muscle, it needs exercising.

An article in the New Scientist suggests that it can have an effect on your body as well as your mind.

"What you have is a pretty average group of British people who would not consider themselves heavy drinkers, yet stopping drinking for a month alters liver fat, cholesterol and blood sugar and helps them lose weight. If someone had a health product that did all that in one month, they would be raking it in."

Professor Kevin Moore, Consultant in Liver Health Services, University College London Medical Centre

The campaign gets bigger, with lots of local authorities and NHS organisations signing up and partnering with Alcohol Change UK to promote Dry January in their local areas.

2015

To bring the campaign to more people than ever before, we partner with Public Health England and create our first ever Dry January radio adverts! This leads more people than ever before taking part in the campaign.

2016

And then there was an app! 14,000 people use the app to help motivate themselves to stick to the challenge and change their drinking.

Major pub chains announce they are stocking non-alcoholic beer in response to the demand from customers during January.

New research from Royal Free Hospital backs up just how good a month off the booze is for the body; improvements in concentration and sleep patterns, as well as positive impact on blood sugar levels, blood pressure and the liver.

2017

A YouGov survey showed that over four million Britons took part in Dry January this year and our new relaunched app was downloaded by over 36,000 people across the world.

2018

Once again, over four million people did Dry January across the UK, and we supported almost 100,000 people through the Dry January app and daily emails. Read their stories.