Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during "Dry January" and subsequent alcohol use

Health Psychol. 2016 Mar;35(3):281-9. doi: 10.1037/hea0000297. Epub 2015 Dec 21.


Objective: Research suggests that temporary abstinence from alcohol may convey physiological benefits and enhance well-being. The aim of this study was to address a lack of information about: (a) correlates of successful completion of a planned period of abstinence, and (b) how success or failure in planned abstinence affects subsequent alcohol consumption.

Method: 857 British adults (249 men, 608 women) participating in the "Dry January" alcohol abstinence challenge completed a baseline questionnaire, a 1-month follow-up questionnaire, and a 6-month follow-up questionnaire. Key variables assessed at baseline included measures of alcohol consumption and drink refusal self-efficacy (DRSE).

Results: In bivariate analysis, success during Dry January was predicted by measures of more moderate alcohol consumption and greater social DRSE at baseline. Multivariate analyses revealed that success during Dry January was best predicted by a lower frequency of drunkenness in the month prior to Dry January. Structural equation modeling revealed that participation in Dry January was related to reductions in alcohol consumption and increases in DRSE among all respondents at 6-month follow-up, regardless of success, but indicated that these changes were more likely among people who successfully completed the challenge.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that participation in abstinence challenges such as Dry January may be associated with changes toward healthier drinking and greater DRSE, and is unlikely to result in undesirable "rebound effects": very few people reported increased alcohol consumption following a period of voluntary abstinence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Abstinence*
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Efficacy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult