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1 in 4 North East drinkers planning a Dry January 2021

Dr Sarah Louden

Dr Sarah Louden

Posted 18/12/20

One in four (25%) people in the North East who drink alcohol are planning to take on Dry January this year, according to a new survey by Alcohol Change UK, the charity behind Dry January.

The figures are even higher in the North East than nationally, where 1 in 5 drinkers (20%) are planning to take part – or 1 in 8 (12.4%) of all UK adults .

It comes as Balance with local authorities encourage friends, families and work colleagues across the region to “try dry” this January. People can download free the Try Dry app to track their units, calories and money saved throughout the month, and set personalised goals throughout the month. People who download the app are twice as likely to have an entirely alcohol-free month, and to see long-term benefits.

Dry January 2021 could give people a much-needed break from alcohol after 2020. A survey by Balance found nearly 1/5 or around 397,000 people in the North East have been drinking more since Covid and of those, over 3/4 (79%) are increasing or high risk drinkers . Nationally, it was estimated that 8.4 million people were drinking at high risk levels, up from 4.8 million in February .

The research from Alcohol Change UK found:
• An estimated 6.5 million nationally will be going alcohol-free this January, compared to an estimated 3.9 million last year. In the North East 25% of drinkers taking part would mean around 475,000 people.
• 27% of people who drink alcohol would like to cut down in 2021, and:
• 31% of heavier (increasing and high risk) drinkers are planning to take on Dry January compared to 1 in 7 low risk drinkers.
• 22% who drink have felt concerned about the amount they have been drinking since COVID-19 restrictions began in March this year.
• 26% have found themselves drinking earlier in the day, and 23% have been drinking ‘to try and cope’.
• People from BAME backgrounds are more likely to have been drinking more than white people, young people (18-34) more likely than older people, and those with children under 18 more likely than those with adult or no children.

2021 is a chance for a new start. A month off alcohol can deliver real benefits. It can help lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, lower cholesterol, and reduce levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood . Nearly 9/10 Dry January participants report saving money, 7/10 say they slept better and 6/10 said they lost weight . It can also help people to cut down long-term: research by the University of Sussex found that 70% of those taking on a Dry January are still drinking less six months later – but interestingly this only applied to those who did the campaign with support from Alcohol Change UK, via their free Try Dry app or coaching emails.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “It is too easy for regular drinking to creep up and turn into a daily habit but Covid has made this worse. It’s clear that many people are feeling that alcohol is taking over and would like to cut down.

“Balance has been working to make people in the North East more aware of the harms of alcohol, and its links to cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It is incredible to see that 1 in 4 North East drinkers are planning to give Dry January a go.

“Taking a month off alcohol can have real positive effects on our health and how we feel. After the festive season and the dreadful 2020, Dry January is a chance to give our bodies a chance to recover and to lose weight, feel more alert, get fitter and a chance to take back control of our relationship with alcohol.”

North East GP Dr Sarah Louden, said: “It’s been a really difficult year and we know that many people have been drinking more. As a GP, I see the harmful effects of alcohol on a regular basis. It impacts our mental and physical health, and as a depressant it can worsen anxiety and depression.

“Dry January isn’t about stopping drinking altogether, it’s about resetting our relationship with alcohol. The biggest benefit is how we feel in ourselves, and many people report feeling more positive, having more energy, sleeping better, saving money and losing weight. People often find that they are still drinking less six months later.”

Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: “2020 has been a year like no other. Many of us have spent the year stressed, scared and tired – it’s no wonder that many of us don’t feel much like ourselves.

“When things get tough, we can find ourselves slipping into drinking habits we wish we could break – but Dry January can help. It’s our chance for a reset. 31 days to try something new, and to see some amazing benefits like brighter skin, a fuller wallet, a calmer mind and a better night’s sleep. But it’s about more than January: it’s about making 2021 the best it can be.

“The new year is a great opportunity for us all to reassess our drinking, and it’s brilliant to see so many people in the North East doing just that. Balance and other organisations in the region have done a great job spreading the word about Dry January – and, importantly, encouraging people to sign up with support. Alcohol Change UK offers free resources to help you make the most of your 31 days dry. By downloading our app or signing up for coaching emails, you double your chance of having a totally alcohol-free month and getting the amazing, lasting benefits Dry January can bring.

“Dry January is not about giving something up. It’s about getting something back. Get your fun back. Get your calm back. Get your energy back. Get your you back.”

In November, Balance launched the Alcohol – Not the Answer” campaign to highlight that alcohol can weaken our immune system against infectious diseases like Covid , contribute to low mood and anxiety, and cause cancer, stroke and heart disease. The North East experiences the country’s highest rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions in the country.

Dr Sarah Louden’s five top tips to help you get through Dry January

1. Remember why you’re doing Dry January: 2020 has been a tough year and we all want to go into 2021 feeling better. Whether you’re sick of feeling tired and groggy, want to lose weight, feel more positive, save money or reach your health and fitness goals, write down the reasons that you’re taking part and these can help you keep going.

2. Work out your triggers from drinking: Lots of us have ‘triggers’ that make us reach for a glass of wine or a beer. It might be the end of a long day, stress or boredom. If you can work out what your triggers are then you can recognise them and try and avoid them.

3. Treat yourself: Many of us use alcohol as our go-to way to destress or treat ourselves. Think of other ways to be kind to you, like having a bath, phoning a friend, getting out for a walk or playing a video game.

4. Get support: Your chance of success improves if you get support. You could do it with a friend or a partner. You can also sign up for free and download the Try Dry app, which has lots of tips for Dry January and helps you track your drinking, calories and units, year round.

5. Think about the future you: Dry January is a great way to kick start a healthier relationship with alcohol longer term. Once it’s over, check in with yourself. Cutting down can make you healthier and happier through the year. As well as the many benefits, you’ll realise that you don’t need alcohol to relax, have fun or socialise.

Alcohol – the risks

Here’s how alcohol can affect us:

Immune system: Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases such as coronavirus

Cancer: alcohol raises the risks of at least seven types of cancer – of the breast, bowel, mouth, larynx, oesophagus, upper throat and liver. See more at

Heart: Drinking can have a harmful effect on your heart. Alcohol can cause abnormal heart rhythms and damage to your heart muscle.

Stroke: alcohol can increase your risk of stroke, even if you don’t drink very large amounts. And if you’ve had a stroke, alcohol could increase your risk of another stroke. This is because alcohol contributes to a number of medical conditions that are risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, an irregular heartbeat and liver damage.

Blood pressure: Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels which can lead to other serious health conditions. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. More than 1 in 4 adults nationally are living with high blood pressure.

Mental health: Alcohol is sometimes used by people to try and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, but excessive drinking is likely to make those symptoms worse. About 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

Liver: Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time means the liver doesn’t get a chance to recover. This can result in serious and permanent damage. Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, which is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year olds.

Weight: many people aren’t sure about the number of calories in their drinks but reducing your drinking is an important way to help you lose weight. Being overweight can lead to many serious health conditions and can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and vascular dementia.