Dry January evaluation 2018

21 December 2019


Dr Richard de Visser and Dr Nina Lockwood

Executive summary

The popularity of Dry January is growing: each year tens of thousands of people register via the website or mobile phone application, and over four million people attempt to have a Dry January without registering or signing-up.

Over the years, Alcohol Change UK (and formerly Alcohol Concern) has sought to increase the effectiveness of the campaign in delivering long-term behavior change through a range of wraparound interventions, delivered via the website, email, app, and social media. The aim of the research reported here was to determine which elements of support are valued and effective, and how various aspects of support may be enhanced.

The research involved surveys and interviews. Self-completed online questionnaires were completed by 2,821 participants at the time of registering for Dry January, 1,715 participants at the end of Dry January, and 816 participants 6 months after the end of Dry January. In addition, semi-structured individual telephone interviews lasting 20-70 minutes were conducted with 19 people purposively sampled from survey participants.

Key findings

Why do participants choose to do Dry January? The survey revealed a range of motives in the diverse sample, but the most important were health reasons, and to take on the challenge. Fundraising was not an important motive.

Do participants value being ‘part of something bigger’? In the survey, being part of something bigger was less important than other elements of taking part in Dry January, and it was not a strong influence on staying dry. However, among interviewees, there was much discussion of the importance of feeling part of something bigger.

Do socioeconomic factors influence participation in, and successful completion of, Dry January? Dry January participants appear to of higher SES and contain a greater proportion of white people than the general population. Socioeconomic factors were not significant predictors of successful completion of Dry January.

Does participation change self-efficacy for managing alcohol consumption? Drink-refusal selfefficacy (DRSE) increased significantly among Dry January participants.

Does participation change drinking attitudes and behaviours? There was a significant weakening of drinking motives, and significant reductions in drinking at 6-month follow-up.

Does participation changes wellbeing? Participants reported improvements in their general health, sleep quality, concentration, energy levels, and skin. Many also reported losing weight.

How do participants experience the fundraising message? Most participants did not give great importance to fundraising. However, for the minority of participants who did engage in fundraising it played a significant role in completing the challenge successfully.

Do participants value the support they receive during the month? Participants valued information demonstrating the benefits of taking part in Dry January, stories from other participants, and tips for how to resist cravings or temptation. The website and app gained the most positive ratings.

How would participants suggest improving the support they receive? Participants gave a range of suggestions for how to improve the support that is provided. There was a clear and unsurprising desire for customisation of the support provided.

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