Much has been written in the press about how COVID and the lockdown have seen this year ’ s Dry January ‘ cancelled ’ for many people . But that ’ s far from the truth , says Richard Piper
HOME AND DRY
As I write this
January is not yet over , and yet a total of 97,066 people have already downloaded the Try Dry app in order to take part in Dry January – an increase of 35 per cent on same period last year , which was itself higher than 2019 . In addition , many thousands of people who previously downloaded the app are still using – or have reactivated – it .
The Dry January community Facebook group had 6,695 members on 21 January 2021 , compared to 5,006 last year – a 34 per cent growth . And group members are extremely active , with around 42 posts , 1,190 comments and 3,789 reactions per day .
So why such growth ? COVID-19 has undoubtedly played a multiple , if complex , role . The long-term stresses of the pandemic and of growing levels of home drinking have generated a significant jump in the number of us seeking to regain control of our alcohol consumption . There has also been even greater interest in personal health , in a strong immune system , and in learning about ways to drink more healthily , with the publicfacing sections of Alcohol Change UK ’ s website seeing a huge growth in visitor numbers . Between late March 2020 and 21 January 2021 , our website was visited by nearly 1.2m people – a 67 per cent increase on the same period in 2019 .
The Dry January campaign has also ‘ gone global ’ in new ways this year . Our small-scale partnership in France has been much more significant in 2021 , and we ’ ve developed exciting new partnerships in Switzerland , the USA and the Netherlands , including translating the app into German and French . People from over 170 countries now use the Try Dry app . And we ’ ve also boosted our marketing , both improving our approach to social media advertising and shifting our messaging away from positioning Dry January as a ‘ challenge ’ – few of us feel we need more challenges in our lives right now – to emphasising the lived benefits , especially the ability to help get your energy , your calm and your freedom back .
While the final results for 2021 are not yet available , we know from independent academic research into previous campaigns that 80 per cent of those who sign up feel more in control of their drinking by the end of the month and 67 per cent are still drinking less six months ’ later . Those who don ’ t join the campaign and try to do an unsupported Dry January , are far less likely to see these benefits . Having a month off alcohol may benefit some people in its own right , but aiming for a month off as part of a well-designed behaviour change campaign is so much more effective .
Looking ahead , who knows where COVID-19 will take us and where we ’ ll be next January . But our planning for January 2022 has begun and we hope all DDN readers will continue to actively support Dry January , in particular by continuing
SO WAS 2021 THE BEST DRY JANUARY SO FAR ?
TO ANSWER THAT , we must be clear what success looks like . A successful Dry January is not necessarily defined as a totally dry month . That would be a clumsy indicator and at odds with the campaign ’ s careful , evidence-based approach to behaviour change . A successful Dry January is one in which experiential learning occurs and is embodied – that is , you feel it , in your body and your mind . People learn some – or all – of these seven things :
1 . Breaking denial : ‘ It seems I ’ ve developed a drinking habit and it ’ s not easy to break ’.
2 . Feeling less guilty about , and alone with , their drinking problem : ‘ This is actually a much more common problem than I realised . I ’ m not alone .’
8 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • FEBRUARY 2021 WWW . DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS . COM