Looking at the history of Dry January

Dec 13, 2018

January Calendar

Every year on the first of January, people swear off alcohol. No, not because of their hangovers (although I’m sure it’s partly to blame!), but for Dry January. This movement, run by the charity Alcohol Change UK, challenges people to lay off the booze for a month. In this article I look into the history of Dry January, and the reasons why so many people and celebrities take part in it every year.

The history of Dry January

In 2011, Emily Robinson signed up for her first half marathon due to take place in February. To make the training easier, she decided to give up alcohol for January. Not only did she find she slept better, lost weight and gained energy, she also noticed how intrigued the people around her were in having an alcohol-free month themselves.

In 2012, Emily started working at Alcohol Change UK. She gave up drinking again in January, except this time the people around her took a lot more notice. So much notice in fact, that 2013 marked the first official Dry January.


A post shared by Dry January (@dryjanuary2019) on

Ever since then, with medical research, marketing and more, the event has become incredibly popular. In fact, according to a recent report, over three million people planned to take part in Dry January 2018.

Is Dry January really worth it?

Many people know that drinking is bad for them, but do it anyway, and regularly. In a 2017 report, it was found that around 56% of the UK population drank alcohol in 2016. With 7.8 million people drinking so much on their heaviest day that it is classed as ‘binging’. Despite these shocking statistics, this is actually the most encouraging set of results ONS have found since they started this report in 2005.

It’s these people Dry January wants to help - the ones that know drinking is bad for them but just aren’t quite sure how to stop. The ones, who like I used to be, order an alcoholic drink by default, just because everyone else does. The reasons to take part are different for everybody, from saving a bit of cash to losing a bit of weight, and there are plenty more good reasons why giving up the bottle for a month is a good thing.

Alcohol Concern UK list their best reasons online:

·         “New year, new you - do Dry January and feel healthier and happier as:

o   you sleep better

o   your skin improves

o   you lose weight

·         More money in your pocket (the average person spends £50,000 on booze in their lifetime)

·         Get healthier - through giving up alcohol for a month you do your insides a lot of good.

·         Amazing sense of achievement!”

This month is important for more than just personal reasons though. It normalises the conversation about alcohol. I have noticed now whether I am in a restaurant or bar, people will always note that I’m not ordering a ‘drink drink’. Events like Dry January and Sober October make it a lot easier to explain to them why. It seems 10 years ago people were less in the know about the health issues surrounding alcohol because we spoke about it a lot less, so my choosing not to drink would have seemed weird. But these days, thanks to positive conversations surrounding mental health and drug and alcohol abuse, people understand a lot more now. And that’s all thanks to events like Dry January.

Who is doing Dry January?

The honest answer to this question is, a lot more people than you think! And it’s not just us regular folk who enjoy taking part in Dry January - you’ll also find some big names also giving it a go. This year one of the biggest names that took part was presenter Kate Garraway.

Kate agreed to take part in Dry January for the TV show Lorraine. At the beginning of the month, she had her liver tested for alcohol damage and then retested at the end of the month. Kate found a 30% reduction in fatty liver deposits caused by alcohol after just one month!

Calum Best, son of George Best footballer who famously dealt with an alcohol issue, and known for being a keen party goer, celebrated his Dry January in this Instagram post:


A post shared by Calum Best (@mrcalumbest) on

In the update, he explains how his month sober (and meat free as he also took part in Veganuary) helped change his outlook completely, saying: “It’s mad when I sit and think I can’t remember ever doing a month without a single drink since I was like 15!!! Yes it’s only a month but I feel clear, motivated, I feel health deep on my inside it’s nice.”

With all of these reasons, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to take part in Dry January. And, if you are looking for a non-alcoholic drink, (and vegan for those who are giving up meat and plant-based products as well) Kolibri has your back!


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