Losing weight, sleeping better, saving money and avoiding hangovers sounds like something most of us would aspire to. And yet, the hold that alcohol has over many of us precludes our involvement in abstaining for a whole month. This is why Alcohol Concern is promoting its annual campaign ‘Dry January’ to help us ditch the booze as we start the New Year.
This year, Alcohol Concern is working with six national charities who tackle issues closely related to alcohol. These are Action for Children, Breast Cancer Now, the British Liver Trust, Crisis, Hospice UK and the World Cancer Research Fund. As alcohol is the UK’s biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15–49, Dry January intends to help raise funds for these charities whilst reducing the harm caused by alcohol. In addition to the health problems, excessive alcohol can lead to social issues such as unemployment, relationship breakdowns, domestic abuse and homelessness.
In the North East, more than one in four people drink above the low risk guidelines of 14 units a week for both men and women. However, almost one in 10 people – 168,899 people – have already signed up and are planning to ditch the booze and lead healthier lives this month. Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, says that alcohol harm costs the region an estimated £1.01 billion every year, including £209 million to the NHS and £331 million in crime and disorder costs. Alongside South Tyneside Council, Balance is promoting the benefits of people having a break from booze, including losing weight, sleeping better and saving money.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “After the excesses of the festive period, Dry January is a great opportunity to give your body a break from alcohol at a time when many other people are also taking a month off. Drinking above the low risk limit puts us at more risk from around 60 different medical conditions, including at least seven types of cancer. Regular drinking also makes us more tired, anxious and less productive, so taking some time out can have real positive effects on our health and wellbeing.”
Dry January can also help to stop alcohol becoming too much of a regular habit. Research shows that three-quarters of people who complete Dry January drink at lower levels 6 months on.