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An alcohol-free month brings many health benefits, finds a study from UK

New research from the UK has found that taking part in Dry January, which involves staying away from alcohol for a month, could help people lose weight, sleep better, boost energy, save money, and reduce drinking in the long-term.

Carried out by the University of Sussex, the new study surveyed UK adults who took part in Dry January in 2018, an event which is organised in the UK by the charity Alcohol Change UK. 

The first survey questioned 2,821 people who had registered for Dry January; the second questioned 1,715 in the first week of February; the final survey included 816 participants in August.

The findings showed that those who take part in Dry January report drinking lesser months later, with alcohol consumption lower in August as well. Participants also reported drinking on fewer days, with the average number of drinking days falling from 4.3 to 3.3 per week. The units consumed per drinking day also dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1, and the frequency of being drunk dropped from 3.4 times per month to 2.1 times per month on average.

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Other benefits of Dry January included a sense of achievement, reported by 93 per cent of participants, and saving money, reported by 88 per cent of those surveyed. Taking part in Dry January also led to 82 per cent of participants thinking more about their relationship with drink, with 80 per cent feeling more in control of their drinking and 76 per cent learning more about when and why they drink. A large number (71 per cent) also realised that they don't need a drink to enjoy themselves.

Cutting back on booze also brought a large number of other health benefits including improved overall health, better sleep, more energy, weight loss, better concentration and better skin. "The simple act of taking a month off alcohol helps people drink less in the long term: by August people are reporting one extra dry day per week. There are also considerable immediate benefits: nine in ten people save money, seven in ten sleep better and three in five lose weight," said lead author Dr Richard de Visser. "Interestingly, these changes in alcohol consumption have also been seen in the participants who didn't manage to stay alcohol-free for the whole month – although they are a bit smaller. This shows that there are real benefits to just trying to complete Dry January."

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Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, also commented on the findings saying, "Put simply, Dry January can change lives. We hear every day from people who took charge of their drinking using Dry January, and who feel healthier and happier as a result."

"Many of us know about the health risks of alcohol – seven forms of cancer, liver disease, mental health problems – but we are often unaware that drinking less has more immediate benefits too. Sleeping better, feeling more energetic, saving money, better skin and losing weight. The list goes on. Dry January helps millions to experience those benefits and to make a longer-lasting change to drink more healthily."

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According to the UK's National Health Service (NHS) men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, and to spread drinking over three or more days if regularly drinking this amount.

A small glass of wine (125 ml, ABV 12 per cent) counts as 1.5 units, and a standard glass (175 ml, ABV 12%) 2.1 units. A 750 ml bottle of wine (ABV 13.5 per cent) contains 10 units. A pint of lager/beer/cider (ABV 5.2 per cent) counts as 3 units and a 330 ml bottle of lager/beer/cider (ABV 5 per cent) is 1.7 units.

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