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  • 7 January 2021
  • 3 years

If You Drank More Alcohol in 2020, You Aren’t Alone

Staff Writer

Dry January Participants Accept Challenge to Be Alcohol-Free for One Month

By: Debbie Jongkind, RD, LDN, PCC, NBC-HWC

A U.S. study published in JAMA Network Open found that alcohol consumption increased during the 2020 pandemic by 14 percent compared to the previous year. Additionally, the study found a 41 percent increase in heavy drinking by women. Heavy drinking was defined as four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours and five or more for men.

Alcohol consumption is often used as a coping mechanism for stress. For many individuals, this past year included numerous reasons for increased stress, including changes in work setting, lockdown, health fears, and child care issues due to school closures or remote learning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), excessive alcohol intake can increase anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. There are physical risks associated with alcohol use as well, including injuries due to accidents and long-term health issues like liver disease, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.

In light of these risks, many individuals start their year by participating in Dry January to reset their drinking patterns with healthier habits. A public health campaign that started in the UK in 2013, Dry January is becoming increasingly popular as people around the world look to join the movement. Alcohol Change UK, the charity behind Dry January, anticipates that 6.5 million people plan to do dry January this year, which is an increase from 3.9 million in 2020.

The USDA dietary guidelines 2020–2025 were just released and they carefully reviewed their recommendations on alcohol consumption. The recommendations state that if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Research published in 2018 by the British Medical Journal found that a month of alcohol abstinence resulted in lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduced diabetes risk. Participants from previous campaigns report 70 percent of people sleeping better, 86 percent of people saving money, and 65 percent of people noticing generally improved health.

It is not too late to join the Dry January challenge and have a healthy reset for 2021. Try replacing alcohol with water, tea, sparkling water, Kombucha, or non-alcoholic beers. There are also numerous mocktail recipes that can still be served up in a fancy glass.

Need some additional support? You can download the Dry January free app and sign up for free email support from the campaign. Additional support may be found through Alcoholics Anonymous which is an international support group and, as always, discuss your health concerns with your medical provider.

This article is meant for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Individuals should consult their health care providers to discuss health risks and preventative measures.

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