Dry January vs Damp January - which is better for you?

Every January, many people pledge to give up alcohol for the month after a busy festive period, but is it better to just cut down?

The Christmas period is over, you’ve drunk yourself under the table at least once, possibly embarrassed yourself at your work Christmas party, and now you’re questioning how you can turn it around and head towards a healthier you in 2023 – cue Dry January.  

What is Dry January? 

Every January, millions of people take part in a movement known as Dry January, whereby participants give up alcohol for the full 31 days of the month.  

A month off the booze may help to pay back some of the costs spent over Christmas and perhaps even help you lose any extra weight you’ve gained during the festive season. But research has shown that going cold turkey (not the Christmas leftover kind) isn’t always the healthiest option.  

Contrary to popular belief, reverting to small amounts of alcohol may actually be the more sustainable option – making a damp January sound a lot more appealing [1]. 

What is Damp January? 

Damp January is a term that has gained more and more traction over the past few years. Instead of committing to 31 days completely sober, you instead lower your alcohol intake to a healthier amount and avoid things such as binge drinking – which, for many, may be something a lot more realistic than cutting out alcohol completely. 

So, what does the research say? Which is better – Dry January or Damp January? 

Let’s break it down into pros and cons for both.  

The pros of Dry January include: 

  1. It’s better for the mind and body – there is evidence to suggest that a month of no alcohol can have positive effects on both the body and mind, especially if you are prone to a tipple or two every evening. One study found that 31 days alcohol-free did indeed have a notable effect on a person’s health. The participants’ blood tests showed a reduction in cancer markers, along with lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and a reduced risk of diabetes [2].  
  2. It can have positive long-term effects – in 2018, a study of more than 800 Dry January participants found that 70% of people who completed a full month, were still drinking less seven months later [3]. 

Want to read more about how Dry January can better your health? Take a look at our blog: the health benefits of Dry January.  

The cons of Dry January include: 

  1. That it may just not work for you – according to some research, it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit [4], meaning a 31-day abstinence is likely to be just that – a one-off. And while the benefits of undertaking Dry January cannot be disputed, once completed, it often gives people the green light to binge on alcohol for the remainder of the year.  

This leads us to Damp January.  

Pros of Damp January include: 

  1. For many, it’s more realistic – if you like to have a glass of wine with your dinner, then the thought of cutting out alcohol for a full 31 days may not appeal to you. However, if you challenge yourself to drink no more than 14 units a week, you may be more tempted to see it through.  
  2. It could have long-term health benefits – cutting down your alcohol intake can bring lots of health benefits and may be more achievable than abstaining completely. 
  3. It can help to build a better relationship with alcohol – they say all things are best in moderation. Reducing your spirit intake to no more than 14 units a week can help you build a healthier and better relationship with alcohol. 
  4. Wine has potential health benefits in small amounts [5] – that’s right, pass me the Rioja! Wine in moderation may have anti-inflammatory properties, and may even be protective against a few conditions, like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are healthier alternatives that provide the same benefits without the risks that alcohol poses. So, you can enjoy alcohol in moderation, but drinking for the sole purpose of reducing inflammation is not the best idea [6].  

Cons of Damp January include: 

  1. It’s not as healthy as drinking no alcohol – speak to anyone that has gone tee-total – they will tell you how good they feel. Though it may not be for everyone, drinking no alcohol will always be healthier than drinking alcohol.  

So, which do I choose? 

Both Dry January and Damp January can bring many health and lifestyle benefits. And pledging to either of these challenges may sound tempting if you are looking to reset your relationship with alcohol and lead a healthier lifestyle in 2023.  

Ultimately, it’s down to you. Both have their pros and cons, and it is up to you to make an informed decision about which one would work better for you. Hey, you could even set yourself a goal to try two or three months without alcohol, and test that 66-day habit theory. Either way, if you do decide to pour yourself that glass of wine, remember to try and stay under 14 units per week (spread over three days or more).  

Where to get support 

If you ever need support to quit drinking, the NHS has some great resources and there are plenty of charities out there, such as Alcohol Change UK, to help.   

If you are worried about the impact all your festive eating and drinking may have had on your overall health (in particular, your liver), our comprehensive blood tests, such as our Advanced Well Man and Advanced Well Woman Blood Tests can help.  

Our Liver Blood Test is a quick and easy way to examine key biomarkers that indicate liver damage – and you can take the test from the comfort of your own home. Your results come with a doctor’s report, which can help you make informed lifestyle decisions, such as cutting alcohol, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.  

Need help determining which test is right for you? Read our Health and Wellness Buying Guide, or even try our test finder


 References 

  1. Bmj (2019) Ian Hamilton: Dry January is no match for the growing harms of alcohol consumptionThe BMJ. Available at: https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2019/01/04/ian-hamilton-dry-january-no-match-growing-harms-alcohol-consumption/ (Accessed: December 28, 2022). 
  2. Mehta, G. et al. (2018) “Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: A prospective observational study,” BMJ Open, 8(5).  
  3. Ford, A. (2019) How 'dry january' is the secret to better sleep, saving money and losing weightThe University of Sussex. Available at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/47131 (Accessed: December 28, 2022). 
  4. How are habits formed: Modelling Habit Formation ... - wiley online library (no date). Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.674 (Accessed: December 28, 2022). 
  5. Fehér, J., Lengyel, G. and Lugasi, A. (2005). The cultural history of wine - theoretical background to wine therapy. Open Medicine, 2(4). 
  6. British Heart Foundation (2020) Is red wine good for your heart?BHF. British Heart Foundation. Available at: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/ask-the-experts/red-wine-and-your-heart (Accessed: December 28, 2022). 

 

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