New year, new you – why Dry January is taking off

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,

Full reference:

Yeomans, H. |2018| New Year, New You: a qualitative study of Dry January, self-formation and positive regulation| Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy| DOI: 10.1080/09687637.2018.1534944


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 

Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2017

Office of National Statistics | December 2018 | Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2017 

Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) has found that mortality rates related to alcohol have risen.  The data analysed  includes only those health conditions where each death is a direct consequence of alcohol misuse (that is, wholly-attributable deaths. Most of these are chronic (longer-term) conditions associated with continued misuse of alcohol. 


Key findings:

  • In 2017, there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population.
  • For the UK, alcohol-specific death rates have increased in recent years to similar rates observed in 2008 where they were at the highest recorded.
  • Since the beginning of the time series in 2001, rates of alcohol-specific deaths among males have been more than double those observed among females (16.8 and 8.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2017 respectively).
  • In 2017, alcohol-specific death rates were highest among 55- to 59-year-old females and 60- to 64-year-old males. (Source: ONS)

See also: Public Health Funding to help improve the lives of those affected by alcohol

In the news:

Daily Mail Record number of British women are dying because of alcohol as figures show drink-related deaths are up 15% since 2001

The Independent UK alcohol deaths approaching levels last seen in 2008 recession, ONS data shows

 Guardian Alcohol-related deaths among UK women at highest rate in 10 years

The Telegraph Baby boomers’ drinking blamed for pushing alcohol-related deaths among women to highest ever level

Safeguarding children affected by parental alcohol and drug use

Public Health England|December 2018 |Safeguarding children affected by parental alcohol and drug use

Public Health England have released a guide for local authorities and substance misuse services to help them work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (PHE).


Local authorities and substance misuse services can use this guidance to:

  • understand more about parental alcohol and drug use and how it affects children
  • understand the implications of Working together to safeguard children for substance misuse services
  • improve joint working between local authority adult and children’s social care services and substance misuse services
  • develop joint protocols between alcohol and drug treatment services and adult and children’s social care services (Source: PHE)

Full details are available from Public Health England

Latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics

Public Health England has published the latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics, which are for April 2017 to March 2018


The report contains a wide range of data, which includes trends over recent years. This Public Health Matters article focuses on the following issues that this year’s statistics have shown:

  • Alcohol treatment numbers are still falling
  • Crack cocaine treatment numbers are still rising
  • Better data on drugs and mental health problems
  • Better data on parental substance misuse
  • Housing and homelessness

All the data points towards treatment services needing to reach out to the most vulnerable people in their population and to make sure they are able to respond to changing patterns of need.

More information on the treatment statistics can be found in the report summary  and in the full report, including all the data tables and charts.

Full article: What we’ve learned from the latest alcohol and drug treatment statistics

Full report: Substance misuse treatment for adults: statistics 2017 to 2018

Public Health England has conducted a rapid inquiry to better understand what was behind the fall in numbers of people in treatment for alcohol dependence in England. The report,PHE inquiry into the fall in numbers of people in alcohol treatment: findings’ sets out findings from the inquiry as well as recommendations and next steps.

Adolescents drink less, although levels of alcohol consumption are still dangerously high

WHO| September 2018 | Adolescents drink less, although levels of alcohol consumption are still dangerously high

WHO have published a new report- Adolescent alcohol-related behaviours: trends and inequalities in the WHO European Region, 2002–2014- which looks at data between 2002-2014 to provide new insights into adolescent drinking. 

Although the report finds that alcohol consumption by teenagers has declined, levels of consumption by adolescents remain high; with one-tenth of  adolescents in the Region were regular weekly drinkers by the age of 15 (9% of girls and 16% of boys) in 2014.


Key findings in the report

The research,  documents the drinking habits of European adolescents in 36 countries. The trend analysis uses data collected during four rounds of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) survey. Worrying trends in drinking behaviour were identified:

  • Excessive drinking is still common, with around a quarter of boys and more than 1 in 5 girls reporting having been drunk two or more times by the age of 15. Since 2002, the greatest declines in drunkenness were observed in Nordic countries.
  • More than 1 in 4 15-year-olds (28%) reported that they started consuming alcohol at age 13 or younger (25% of girls and 31% of boys) in 2014. This has fallen from 46% in 2002, with downward trends similar in magnitude for boys and girls in most countries.
  • Over time gender differences for weekly drinking have converged in northern Europe, with girls and boys now reporting similar levels. Wider gender divides persist in central-eastern and southern Europe, where prevalence for boys is currently around twice that of girls.
  • Around 1 in 10 adolescents reported first being drunk at age 13 or younger (7% of girls and 9% of boys) in 2014. This has more than halved since 2002 (from 17% to 8%), with declines among both boys and girls, although in most countries the decline was greatest in boys (Source: WHO).

‘Drink Free Days’ to encourage middle- aged drinkers to cut down

Public Health England | September 2018 |Public Health England and Drinkaware launch Drink Free Days

A new press release from Public Health England highlights how two thirds of regular drinkers say that cutting down on their drinking is harder than improving diet or exercise.

In a new collaboration Public Health England and alcohol education charity Drinkaware have  jointly launching a new campaign ‘Drink Free Days’ to help people cut down on the amount of alcohol they are regularly drinking. 


The campaign has been designed to encourage middle aged drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake by taking days off from drinking, which is a way of reducing health risks from alcohol.

The more alcohol people drink , the greater their risk of developing a number of serious potentially life limiting health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, as well as 7 types of cancer (Source: PHE).


Read the full release here 

You can download the Drink Free Days app from Public Health England here 


RCGP’s response to the  Alcohol guidelines ‘set for a reason’, says RCGP
Drinkaware’s Drink Compare Calculator 

In the media:

BBC News Middle-aged should have ‘drink-free’ days, say campaigners 

UCL research indicates that arteries of youths who smoke and drink are already starting to stiffen

UCL | August 218 |UCL research indicates that arteries youths who smoke and drink are already starting to harden 

New research from University College London (UCL) shows that smoking and drinking even infrequently and at lower levels (than in adult studies) as a youth , is linked to loss of arterial elasticity (arterial stiffening) (via UCL).

The study used analysed data from  more than 1,200 adolescents from Children of the 90s, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), during a five-year period between 2004 and 2008.


“We found that in this large contemporary British cohort, drinking and smoking in adolescence, even at lower levels compared to those reported in adult studies, is associated with arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis progression,” said senior author, Professor John Deanfield (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science).

Interestingly the research team also discovered “that if teenagers stopped smoking and drinking during adolescence, their arteries returned to normal suggesting that there are opportunities to preserve arterial health from a young age.”

Dr Mariettta  Charakida who was part of the team involved in the research said: “The age at which participants started drinking alcohol was not associated with arterial health, suggesting that duration of exposure might not be that important at this young age,” added Dr Charakida. “In addition, no beneficial effect of low alcohol consumption was found with regards to arterial health.”

Read the full press release at UCL

The research article is published in the European Heart Journal 



To determine the impact of smoking and alcohol exposure during adolescence on arterial stiffness at 17 years.

Methods and results

Smoking and alcohol use were assessed by questionnaires at 13, 15, and 17 years in 1266 participants (425 males and 841 females) from the ALSPAC study. Smoking status (smokers and non-smoker) and intensity (‘high’ more than or equal to 100, ‘moderate’ 20–99, and ‘low or never’ less than 20 cigarettes in lifetime) were ascertained. Participants were classified by frequency (low or high) and intensity of drinking [light (LI less than 2), medium (MI 3–9), and heavy (HI more than 10 drinks on a typical drinking day)]. Carotid to femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) was assessed at 17 years [mean ± standard deviation and/or mean difference (95% confidence intervals)]. Current smokers had higher PWV compared with non-smokers (P = 0.003). Higher smoking exposure was associated with higher PWV compared with non-smokers. Participants who stopped smoking had similar PWV to never smokers (P = 0.160). High-intensity drinkers had increased PWV. There was an additive effect of smoking intensity and alcohol intensity, so that ‘high’ smokers who were also HI drinkers had higher PWV compared with never-smokers and LI drinkers [mean adjusted increase 0.603.


Smoking exposure even at low levels and intensity of alcohol use were associated individually and together with increased arterial stiffness. Public health strategies need to prevent adoption of these habits in adolescence to preserve or restore arterial health.

Full reference: Charakida, M. et al.| 2018|Early vascular damage from smoking and alcohol in teenage years: the ALSPAC study|European Heart Journal|  ehy524 |

This article can be requested by Rotherham NHS staff here 


In the news:

BBC News Teenagers who smoke and drink suffer ill effects by age of 17