As the end of the indulgent holiday season draws near once more, some have already begun setting resolutions for a healthier new year.
For many, this means participating in Dry January, an annual initiative that encourages individuals to give up alcohol for all 31 days in January. The health benefits to those who attempt the challenge, and successfully abstain from alcohol consumption, are well-documented, and include improved sleep, skin and liver health among other benefits.
In the US, the challenge has increased in popularity in recent years, with 2022 seeing participation grow to 35 per cent, according to CGA, a company that specialises in food and drink data research. Of those who attempted the challenge, CGA reports 74 per cent succeeded.
However, as previous studies have found, the majority of New Year’s resolutions fail, with research showing only 19 per cent of individuals achieve the goals they set at the start of January.
As a result, a new take on Dry January has emerged, with many instead attempting “Damp January”.
What is Damp January and who can benefit?
As the name suggests, Damp January is a moderate, more relaxed version of the initiative, with individuals encouraged only to cut back, or become more aware, of their alcohol consumption, rather than give it up completely.
The trend has become increasingly popular as people begin to seek resolutions that are more sustainable and realistic, and ultimately easier to keep.
“A Damp January is a less extreme and potentially much more sustainable version of the challenge that is focused on reducing our alcohol intake during the month of January,” Vedant Pradeep, the CEO and co-founder of alcohol reduction app Reframe told Better Homes & Gardens.
As for those who may find the challenge suitable, Pradeep told the outlet that Damp January can be beneficial for “pretty much anyone that wants to make positive adjustments and experience all the health and emotional benefits of drinking less, while not eliminating alcohol completely from their lives”.
By not cutting out alcohol completely, but instead being mindful about consumption, those who attempt Damp January may find that it’s easier to continue the trend beyond the first month of the year, and increase the possibility of a meaningful life change.
According to Rachel Goldman, a New York City-based clinical psychologist and consultant in private practice who spoke to Today, a realistic approach to Damp January may consist of picking a number and then deciding you “aren’t going to drink more than that number of times per week”.
Is Damp January more beneficial than Dry January?
The sustainable approach to the challenge may be more beneficial to one’s health in the long run, as a 2021 study found that Dry January participation led to more drinking down the line. The study, which analysed Dry January participants in the UK between 2015 to 2018, found people felt “at greater liberty to drink to excess at other times of the year”.
Interestingly, some experts believe that Dry January may not be the best approach for those who currently drink moderately, as it will not result in the same health benefits those who drink beyond moderation will experience. As noted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking in moderation means limiting intake to two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women.
“You get the best benefit from alcohol when you drink in moderation. Just being dry for one month and going back to drinking in excess is a bad idea,” Amitava Dasgupta, PhD, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston, and author of the book The Science of Drinking, told Healthline.
Those who already drink moderately, but decide to attempt Dry January, may also struggle with the societal impacts of the challenge, according to Dr Rekha B Kumar, medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine.
“There are people who have learned to practice very reasonable alcohol consumption that contributes to psychosocial well-being in a way that does not impair their health,” she told Healthline. “In these people, completely cutting out healthy/moderate/social consumption might interfere with their social dynamics, cultural factors around meals, and mildly interfere with one’s routine of stress management.”
Although most studies show the benefits of eliminating alcohol completely, there are also health benefits to moderate levels of drinking.
“Drinking one or two glasses of wine once or twice a week has some health benefits, especially for men over 40; it reduces risk of cardiovascular disease… for women you can get those benefits anytime, it’s not age-dependent,” Dr Dasgupta told the outlet.
A glass of wine has also been shown to slow down cognitive decline and lower the risk of dementia.
A previous poll conducted by Strava using more than 800 million user-logged activities in 2019 predicted 19 January is the day most people are likely to give up on their New Year’s resolution. However, individuals can increase the chances their resolutions will succeed by making specific, defined goals, experts previously told The Independent.
And, as with any new habit, it’s important to allow room for set-backs. “Always give yourself grace for one day off while trying to establish a new pattern in your life,” Brooke Bralove, a licensed clinical social worker who has maintained a private practice in Bethesda, Maryland, advised.
If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol addiction, you can confidentially call the national alcohol helpline Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 or visit the NHS website here for information about the programmes available to you.