DRIER THAN A DRY MARTINI is no martini, proudly brought to you by that thing you may have heard called "Dry January". First held in 2013 as a campaign by British charity Alcohol Concern, Dry January challenges people to give up booze on the month preceding the holidays, with the aim of reducing alcohol's harmful effects within families and communities. "Save money. Lose weight. Feel energised." reads their tagline. 2014 saw 17,000 pledges to give up drinking for a month, with numbers expected to have grown this year as Dry January gains increasing popularity. The sign-up form on the website requires a British postcode but participants hail from even outside of the UK, including Brooklyn resident Anne Hathaway who reportedly planned to "prioritise my health this year and not drink, at least not in January."
Are there any actual benefits though to giving up booze for 31 days? Healthwise, a small study by New Scientist and Professor Rajiv Jalan, from the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School, found significant health benefits to alcohol abstinence, however insignificant 31 days may seem. Five weeks had ten New Scientist staff abstain from alcohol, while four other staff members carried on drinking as they normally do. All 14 subjects were tested before and after the five-week period, and while no remarkable changes were found in those who drank, the changes were consistent and dramatic in those who went dry: liver fat fell by an average of 15 percent, blood glucose by 16 percent, blood cholesterol by almost 5 percent, and weight by an average of 1.5 kilograms. Concentration and sleep quality were also rated by abstainers to have improved, though on the downside, they reported to have had lower social contact during the study.
Behaviorally, a study by the University of Sussex followed up nearly 900 participants in the 2014 Dry January campaign, to find six months later that 72 percent had kept harmful drinking episodes down, with four percent continuing the abstinence long past January. The changes in alcohol consumption were interestingly found not only in the participants who completed the month-long pledge, but also in those who didn't go fully booze-free. "Even if participants took part but didn't successfully complete the 31 days, it generally led to a significant decrease across all the measures of alcohol intake." The university's Dr. Richard de Visser affirms.
With Dry January coming to a close, it may be worth thinking about cultivating better drinking habits for the rest of the year. Health benefits aside, there are cultured nuances to drinking that, when explored, prove more satisfying than a binge-drunken night out. Think along the lines of aperitifs, digestifs, having a good glass of wine at lunch, trying a new beer for its flavor, oysters and bubbly, dessert and sticky, fancy cocktails you can't afford too many of, actual conversations or a moment to mull one's thoughts. Quality over quantity may be key.
Besides, we really don't need another hangover, do we? Not to mention any more incriminating photos set to resurface on Timehop next year. Salut!
Vintage liquor posters from the Ross Art Group, available at postergroup.com Support Dry January at dryjanuary.org.uk