Why a “Dry January” could lead to a better 2024


​​According to The University of Queensland one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to drink less alcohol. In 2023 more than 400,000 Australians planned to give up alcohol for their New Year's resolution, with millennials among the first to stop drinking. This year a similar lifestyle survey showed that 8.9% of us want to cut back on drinking and smoking.  

For younger Aussies especially, the culture of drinking in Australia continues to shift. According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, the proportion of young people aged 18–24 who abstained from drinking has more than doubled from 9.7% in 2001 to 21% in 2019. There was also a decrease in single occasion risky drinking at least once a month within the same age group 57% to 41% and those who are drinking at lifetime risky levels also saw a significant drop from 31% to 18.8%. It should therefore come as no surprise that more people than ever are choosing to reduce their alcohol intake by embarking on month-long challenges, such as Dry January.  

According to Alcohol Change nearly 9 million people worldwide participated in Dry January last year alone, with their reasons for taking part more varied than ever. A British study found that Dry January participants slept better and had more energy, some lost weight and saved money, and others noticed improvements in their skin and hair. 

In addition, statistics show that 51% of Australians who participated in Dry January drank less frequently when surveyed 4 months later.  

Health and wellbeing 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, alcohol consumption is linked to various health issues, including liver disease, cardiovascular problems, and an increased risk of eight different types of cancer. Dry January provides a much-needed respite for the body, allowing it to recover from the festive season's indulgences. While a month off the booze won’t undo all your health issues, there are certainly some positive impacts.  

A study from the UK investigating the benefits of not drinking for 5 weeks found that participants' liver fat, a precursor to liver damage, fell by at least 15%, and in some participants by as much as 20%. The same study also saw participants blood glucose levels - a key factor in determining diabetes risk, fall by an average of 16 percent. Research has also found that just four weeks without alcohol can be enough to start lowering both blood pressure and heart rate. 

Physical appearance 

Alcohol contains a lot of kilojoules (energy) so it can easily contribute to weight gain. One standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, which provides 290kJ of energy these kilojoules are known as ‘empty kilojoules’ because they contain few nutrients for the body to use. This energy comes from the alcohol alone and does not include anything you mix your alcohol with which could have additional calories. Furthermore, when you drink alcohol, you become less aware of the food you are eating and can easily overeat. 

Drinking two full-strength beers or two glasses of wine per day equates to approximately three standard drinks and represents 10% of your total daily energy intake. Drinking alcohol regularly therefore tends to lead to weight gain, while the opposite can be said when you abstain from drinking. In a survey conducted by the University of Sussex, over 58% of Dry January participants reported losing weight. 

Alcohol also dehydrates you and your skin. Taking part in Dry January can help your skin recover meaning brighter and plumper younger-looking skin as well as smaller pores.   

Better Sleep 

Drinking alcohol before bed may help you fall asleep in the short term due to a sedative effect, however, it can affect the quality of your sleep. It can also disrupt your sleep cycles, resulting in waking up early.  

Alcohol interferes with the normal sleep process by causing a reduction in sleep onset latency, meaning a delay in the time it takes you to enter the important rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. Most adults need about two hours of REM sleep each night. REM sleep plays a role in memory organisation, emotional processing, brain development, and dreaming.  

If you wake up in the night after drinking, it’s because alcohol increases production of epinephrine, a stress hormone that increases heart rate and stimulates the body. 

Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means you need to get up in the night to visit the bathroom. 

Drinking less alcohol can improve the quality of your sleep. 

Mental Health 

Alcohol can have an impact on mental health, contributing to anxiety and depression. Beyond Blue states that “Over 500,000 Australians will experience depression and substance dependency at the same time, at some point in their lives. It is quite common, for men in particular, to try to mask or block out the symptoms of depression or anxiety by using alcohol or other drugs, which only makes the symptoms worse.”  

Alcohol is a depressant which affects the brain in many ways. During intoxication it can cause feelings of sadness or depression that evolve into feelings of nervousness or anxiety during the subsequent hangover and withdrawal. 

Individuals who reduce their alcohol consumption or eliminate alcohol may experience reduced mental health issues, enhanced mental clarity or a positive shift in mood, which could in turn lead to further positive changes.  

Personal Finances 

Australian households spent a total of 5.4 billion dollars on alcohol between 2019 and 2020. This marked an increase of more than 200 million Australian dollars compared to March 2019. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the average Australian household spends thousands of dollars annually on alcohol. Last year household spending on alcohol and tobacco increased by 7.1% due largely to inflation and the cost of living.  

By participating in Dry January, you can save money, but you may also be able to gain a fresh perspective on the financial impacts of your drinking habits too.  


Alcohol often plays a central role in social gatherings, but excessive consumption can strain relationships. Dry January may help you to explore alternative activities that do not revolve around alcohol, fostering deeper connections with friends and family and helping you find new ways of enjoying social times. With the money that you save from not drinking alcohol you could enjoy a day trip somewhere new with your family, visit a nice restaurant with friends, or treat you and your partner to a spa treatment.  

Alcohol can also impede effective communication and exacerbate conflicts within relationships. Alcohol can lead you to say or do hurtful things that can affect your relationships. A break from alcohol could provide you with the chance to communicate more openly, resolve issues and foster emotional intimacy. 

And more... 

A reduction or total elimination of alcohol can have many more positive impacts such as improved cognitive and memory function, increased immune system, a better libido, improved oral health and overall feelings of better health and happiness. Learn more about alcohol and its effects here  -  https://yourroom.health.nsw.gov.au/a-z-of-drugs/Pages/alcohol.aspx 

Want more advice?  

Regardless of whether you want to stop drinking or reduce your consumption, you can try our online confidential Alcohol Risk Assessment Tool to determine if your drinking is putting you at risk and to provide you additional motivation to meet your goals.    

You can also take advantage of the free NSW telephone-based coaching service Get Healthy.  The Get Healthy Service is designed to support you to make healthy lifestyle changes and reduce your alcohol consumption. The NSW Get Healthy Service is available Mon – Fri 8am – 8pm. To enroll call 1300 806 258 or register online at https://www.gethealthynsw.com.au/ 

Whatever your goal, you can also download the Daybreak app to help support you to change your behavior. The Daybreak app allows you to track your alcohol intake via personalised goals, with the ability to visually monitor your consumption. You can also join a non-judgmental peer community of people for advice and support and access a list of over 100 suggested activities to help with your alcohol behavior change goals.   

For free and confidential advice 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015. Counsellors are available to provide information, referrals, crisis counselling and support. Or start a Web Chat with an ADIS counsellor online Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 5pm.   


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