Feb 6, 2024 - Health

Axios Finish Line: Celebrating the success of Dry January

Illustration of a wine glass with a dotted line where the wine would be.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

If you tried Dry January and abstained from drinking for the month, you might be introducing alcohol back into your life now.

Why it matters: Studies show clear benefits to skipping alcohol — even for a short time.

By the numbers: 27% of Americans who drink said they planned to participate in Dry January this year, up from 24% last year, according to a CivicScience survey.

  • A stunning 75% of young adults, 21- to 24-year-olds, said they planned to participate. That tracks with other data showing that younger people are drinking less.

Participants in a U.K. study (where the Dry January campaign started in 2013) reported saving money, feeling a sense of accomplishment, getting better sleep, having more energy, losing weight — and drinking less throughout the rest of the year.

Case in point: Axios' "1 big thing" podcast asked listeners who did Dry January to tell us how it went.

  • "I've done it for a couple years now, and every time I find an improvement in my immunity for January. I find that my skin gets better, and I just feel more energized as a person." Allison, 24, Pittsburgh.
  • "I made it all the way to Saturday, January 26th. Did help me with a bit of weight loss; did help me with making some smart decisions." —Bradley, 45, Miami.
  • "I've been really excited to see nonalcoholic beers that taste good made available because it's helped me feel like I can have fun without compromising on health." —Noah, 26, Arlington, Va.

Zoom out: Excessive drinking kills almost 140,000 people in the U.S. each year — almost double the amount of Americans who die from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  • And most alcohol-related deaths aren't from car accidents, but from the health effects of drinking too much over a long period of time, which can lead to chronic illnesses such as cancer and liver and heart disease.
  • Those chronic diseases accounted for nearly 60% percent of alcohol-related deaths between 2015 and 2019.
  • Excessive drinking is also the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, per the CDC.

What to watch: Younger Americans, between the ages of 18 and 34, have been reporting lower levels of drinking and lower amounts of overconsumption, according to Gallup.

  • One driver of the trend may be increasing diversity. Gallup notes that white Americans tend to drink more, and the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds who are Black, Hispanic, Asian or belong to other racial groups has nearly doubled in the U.S. in the last two decades.
  • "It's just partly a cultural shift. As young adults become more racially and ethnically diverse, they are going to be less likely to drink," Lydia Saad, Gallup's director of U.S. social research, told Axios.
  • Other reasons might include better education on binge drinking and the fact that younger people are more likely to use cannabis as a replacement substance, Saad said.

This article appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

Go deeper