University of Leeds | January 2019 | New year, new you – why Dry January is taking off
New research from the University of Leeds sought to investigate the popularity of Dry January, it is the first study to use qualitative research to explore the alcohol abstinence challenge.
The research team examined 30-plus promotional emails issued by charity Alcohol Concern (now part of Alcohol Challenge UK) during Dry January in 2017.
They analysed participants’ experiences of taking part by assessing 62 posts and 2,500 comments made between 1 January 2017 and 4 February 2017 in an open Facebook group.
Following analysis of the comments, the researchers determined that fundraising for charity was not a motivating factor to participate, as the participants were more likely to discuss personal benefits.
These included sleep quality, appearance, energy levels, weight loss, levels of self-esteem, and surprise at discovering their own strength and willpower (Source: University of Leeds).
The study has been published in the journal Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy,
2018| New Year, New You: a qualitative study of Dry January, self-formation and positive regulation| Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy|
In the last 5 years, giving up alcohol for January has become a common social practice in UK. Inspired by Alcohol Concern’s Dry January initiative and other related campaigns, an estimated 5 million UK adults attempted to abstain from alcohol in January 2017. Moreover, evaluative research has suggested that a 1-month spell of abstinence is an effective way of reducing average, longer-term drinking. However, the popularity and apparent effectiveness of Dry January are not well-understood. This article presents the first qualitative analysis of the meaning and significance of this important new cultural phenomenon. Based on analysis of media and social media content, it examines both how Dry January is managed by Alcohol Concern and how it is experienced by participants. The burgeoning popularity of Dry January is found to result from how this process of temporary abstinence is underpinned by positive regulatory techniques and the salience of embodiment. Consequently, rather than being a simple regime of bodily abstinence and self-control, Dry January should instead be understood as an embodied experience of ethical self-formation. The article also reflects on the implications of this finding for alcohol regulation more widely.
The full article is available to read and download online from Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy