38% More People Sober This Year, Dry January Found Dead

Fewer people report starting a Dry January, probably because fewer people are drinking at all.
Katie Way
Brooklyn, US
January 2, 2020, 7:09pm
Seltzer with lime at bar sobriety
Photo by pjohnson1 via Getty Images

There are, if we’re being honest, like five possible New Year’s Resolutions at this point, and they’re all boring as hell. Participating in Dry January, the month-long commitment to abstain from drinking alcohol that sprung up in the U.K. in 2014 and has since made its way overseas, is one of the classics. It’s bland, health-oriented, attainable, and you get to tell people you’re doing it, which projects discipline and competence. Perfect! But a recent survey by data analytics group YouGov suggests interest in month-long stretches of sobriety are waning. In December, only 14 percent of the 22,760 respondents said they’d be participating in Dry January 2020, versus last year’s poll, when 23 percent of respondents said they were going to attempt it. Does that mean booze-fueled debauchery is on the rise instead? The opposite, actually: 33 percent of respondents said they “don’t ever” drink alcohol, versus 24 percent in late 2018, a 38 percent increase in people choosing lifestyle sobriety.

That new increase in year-round sobriety tracks, because ditching alcohol is probably cooler than it’s ever been, at least in recent memory. 2019 was the year sober bars and nightlife spaces evolved into places that are actually fun to socialize in (which still means “spend $15 while standing around with other adults,” for better or worse). And, although it might be a little premature, the rise of legal cannabis, and with it more ways to enjoy weed in a social context, may have something to do with the collective turn away from alcohol, too. We’re taking “Cali sober” bicoastal, baby! Even beer companies are preparing for full-fledged sobriety to become a Thing. According to trade publication The Drinks Business, Heineken and Scottish beer company BrewDog are both offering special Dry January deals on non-alcoholic or low-ABV beers, which have been steadily gaining a larger segment of the total beer market, even as sales of traditional beers decline.

So the petering off of Dry January doesn’t mean that booze has us all by the balls and sobriety is futile. That’s great news, especially because while Dry January’s actual health benefits have always been a little dubious, sobriety’s positive impacts on mental and physical health is scientifically backed and wide-ranging. But, given the fact that we’re all ruminating on our habits and intentions, now could definitely be a good time to give an alcohol-free lifestyle a whirl. After all, with just under a third of Americans saying they’re done with drinking, odds are high that at least some of the cool kids are doing it.

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