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This is how many people are already planning to give up alcohol for Dry January 2019

An extra 1.1 million people are planning to give up drinking at the start of 2019 as part of Dry January, as charity Alcohol Change UK releases a book to help those considering abstaining next month.

(Photo: iStock)

Around 4.2 million people have said they will take part this year, according to a YouGov poll published today.

During Dry January, a campaign run by charity Alcohol Change UK, participants give up alcohol in an attempt to detox and save money after the Christmas period.

The rate of drinkers saying they will forgo alcohol at the start of the year has risen by almost 35%, up from the 3.1 million people who pledged to take part in 2018.

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK, said the campaign is “not really about January.” Those who do manage to avoid drinking all month are far more likely to cut back on their alcohol intake throughout the year, according to a study researchers at the University of Sussex conducted this year.

The average number of days Brits drank each week fell from 4.3 to 3.3 by August if they took part, while units consumed per drinking day dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1.

Frequency of drunkenness also fell on average, from 3.4 times per month to 2.1 per month.

“Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialise,” he said.

“That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.”

A spokesperson for Public Health England, which backs the campaign, said Dry January is based on “sound behavioural principles”, and helps people to “re-set their drinking patterns for weeks or even months after completing the challenge.”

Brigid Simmonds, head of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) told the drinks business that the industry body supports “responsible alcohol consumption all year round,” but added she believes moderate drinking can be healthier than abstinence.

“Research continues to show that moderate alcohol consumption carries less risk than drinking excessively or not at all,” she said.

A number of scientific studies have demonstrated a “J-shaped” relationship between drinking and risk of death, according to researchers with IARD, which has undertaken an analysis of around 40 separate studies on the impact of alcohol on the human body.

“It is clear that heavy drinking is harmful and should be avoided,” an IARD spokesperson told db.

“Excessive drinking is associated with an increased risk of death from all causes. For adults of legal drinking age, moderate alcohol consumption can be part of a well-balanced lifestyle.

“Various health authorities and medical studies state that moderate consumption of alcohol may be associated with certain health benefits for some adults, including a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”

In addition to commissioning YouGov’s research, Alcohol Change UK has worked with comedian Lee Mack to publish a book aimed at helping people make it through January drink-free.

Called Try Dry, the book offers advice for each stage of your booze-free challenge – from ‘coming out’ to friends and family, to sober dating, setbacks, cravings, going out and staying in.

Although alcohol consumption is falling in the UK, its decline has also given way to a burgeoning non-alcoholic drinks sector.

More than half of adults who took part in a OnePoll survey last month said they have at least tried at least one kind of non-alcoholic beverage. Just over 50% also agreed that no-alcohol beer has become more socially acceptable in the past two years.

In the 12 weeks to 12 August 2018, sales of no-alcohol beers were up by 58% compared with the same period last year, according to Kantar World Panel.

More options have also been introduced to the on-trade. This week, Diageo-owned gin brand Gordons said it will launch its two flavoured, low-alcohol gin and tonics in bars and pubs next year, after the initial release of the pre-mixed drinks at supermarkets in June.

Suffolk brewery St Peter’s launched a draught version of its 0.0% golden ale in the on-trade with the Old Sport Company last month. It is currently being trialled in the group’s Leamington Spa and Wokingham sites, with other pubs in the chain set to introduce it “very soon.”

Simmonds told db: “Following significant investment and innovation in the category, for those seeking a new experience, the range of low alcohol and alcohol free beers available is increasing.

“So, whether it be standard strength, low strength or alcohol free, beer is a great way to support your local pub and should be enjoyed all year round.”

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