NO says Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford
January is a miserable month. It is also my birthday, so exactly why would you want to stay dry?
It seems last year 35,000 signed up to Dry January, raising £4m in the process, claiming they lost weight, improved sleep, saved cash, and improved the quality of their skin. But what does the evidence say?
A recent study of 1,824 participants followed up for 20 years reported that abstaining from alcohol significantly shortens life expectancy.
Moderate alcohol consumption – note the word moderate – was associated with reduced total mortality among middle-aged and older adults: compared to moderate drinkers, abstainers had more than double the risk of dying over the ensuing 20 years.
Apart from the cardiovascular benefits of moderate consumption, one of the possible explanations for the findings is that alcohol can be a great social lubricant, facilitating social networks and preventing mental health problems.
Therefore, if you have given up, you still need to think about maintaining your social life: depressed or anxious mood is the reason most frequently given for relapsing.
If you think you are a problem drinker and want to give up, then is abstinence the best way? As it turns out, people who seek help to moderate their drinking often do so because they are already experiencing significant problems; but these alcohol-related problems tend to be nowhere near as bad as those who seek help from abstinence-based programmes.
If you are thinking by February of returning to your old habits, then my advice would be to think moderation not binge. Intake was reduced by at least 50 per cent in one study which trained people to drink moderately.
Therefore, enjoy your Dry January, continue to socialise, but, by February, try moderation.
I normally do not set New Year resolutions as if you break them, then where does that leave you?
However, this year I’ve decided to take part in Dry January to see if I can manage without drinking and help lose some weight.
I’m aware that I’ve added a few pounds, partly because it’s easy to meet up with somebody and have a chat in a pub.
During the festive season it’s all too easy to catch up with somebody at lunchtime then quickly after work before going on to dinner. It’s so easy to drink too much without realising it.
I enjoy a good full bodied Bordeaux, a cold dry Champagne or a pint of Hook Norton Ale.
However, I am not going to sit at home every night and drink water but continue to go out and socialise with friends and colleagues drinking a soft drink.
I am coming to the end of my first week and have been out for meals and met up with people in pubs.
It’s important that we support local pubs as they are the heart of communities.
There are going to be some challenges ahead in the next few weeks.
I hope to remain strong-willed – and I hope somebody won’t slip me a drink.
Whatever happens, I want to make sure that I don’t make up for January on February 1.
I hope I’ll have lost a few pounds and can continue to go out and enjoy myself while drinking an orange juice at my local pub.