LOSING weight, more energy, better sleep and a healthier relationship with alcohol are just some of the benefits people can expect by doing Dry January.

New research shows nearly one in five people who drink alcohol, or 7.9 million people, are planning to take a month off in the New Year.

Balance with Durham County Council are encouraging people to download Alcohol Change UK’s free app, Try Dry, and take part to double their chances of having a successful alcohol-free month.

Last year, the North East had the highest rate of Dry January sign ups of any region.

With the free Try Dry app people can track units, calories and money saved, and set personal goals through the month.

Nearly 90 per cent Dry January participants report saving money, 70 per cent say they slept better and 60 per cent said they lost weight.

Amanda Healy, County Durham’s Director of Public Health, said: “If we are worried or have had a stressful day, it can be tempting to have a glass of wine or a beer to help us to relax.

“And while it’s okay to have the occasional drink, if it becomes a habit or you find the amount of alcohol you are consuming is increasing, it can become a problem and actually make you feel worse.

“In fact, alcohol is known to contribute to a number of serious health conditions, including cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure and cholesterol.

“Dry January is a chance for us all to make a fresh start in 2022. There are many benefits from taking a month off alcohol – from better sleep, increased energy and a more positive mindset, to weight loss and saving money.

“It can be tricky to stick to good intentions so I would encourage people to download the free Try Dry app which can help keep you on track in January and throughout the year.”

Research shows many people are drinking more heavily due to the additional stresses brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

New research shows that: almost three in ten drinkers have found themselves drinking more in 2021, compared to 2020, around one in six drinkers feel concerned about the amount they have been drinking since the removal of Covid-19 restrictions in the summer and a quarter would like to reduce the amount they drink in 2022.

It is estimated around four in ten people in the North East, or around 855,000 people, have been drinking above the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance of no more than 14 units a week - enough to significantly raise the risks from alcohol.

As well as supporting Dry January Balance the North East Alcohol programme will also be launching for the first time a New Year health harms alcohol campaign to warn that alcohol causes cancers of the breast, bowel, mouth and throat.

It comes as the region has seen the worst rate of alcohol deaths in the country.

Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “It can be hard to break drinking habits but millions of people will be doing Dry January and hoping to feel the benefits.

"Taking a month off alcohol can give you more energy, make you feel more positive, sleep better and help you lose weight.

"People who take part often say they feel invigorated and don’t miss a night drinking.

“Equally important is that taking time off alcohol can help reset your relationship with alcohol and help you cut down your drinking longer term.

"However stressful things might feel, alcohol is never the answer and never going to make us feel better.

"Too much alcohol raises the risks of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

"It is fantastic to see how many people took part last January and we hope thousands of people give it a go again this year.

Research shows a month off alcohol can deliver real benefits, such as lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, lower cholesterol, and reduce levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood.

A break from alcohol can also help people lose weight.

A standard glass of red or white wine can contain around 160 calories, around four Jaffa cakes, and a pint of five per cent lager can have around 220 calories, the same as a Mars Bar and nearly as many as a McDonald’s hamburger.

Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: “We know that things are feeling uncertain at the moment and lots of us will be looking for ways to try to cope.

"As the pandemic continues to take its toll, research consistently shows that, for many people who were already drinking heavily, our drinking habits may have taken a turn for the worse.

“With many of us experiencing heightened levels of stress, it’s hardly surprising that some of us might be drinking more without realising.

“The good news is that being in control of our drinking can improve our overall health and wellbeing. And that’s where Dry January comes in. It offers the opportunity for a total reset. 31 days to try something new.

"Sleep better and have more energy, improve your mental health and concentration, look fabulous and get brighter skin, save money and feel an amazing sense of achievement.

Read more: Teenagers set fire to slide in County Durham park

In November, Balance launched the Alcohol Causes Cancer campaign to highlight that alcohol can cause at least seven types of cancer including breast, bowel, mouth and throat cancer.

The North East experiences the country’s highest rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions in the country.

For anyone dependent on alcohol, stopping drinking can be dangerous. Speak to a GP who will be able to get help for you to reduce your drinking safely, call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 or speak to a GP who will be able to get help for reducing drinking safely.

To find alcohol treatment services locally click here

Five top tips to help you get through Dry January

1. Remember why you’re doing Dry January: 2020 and 2021 have been tough years and we all want to go into 2022 feeling better. Whether you’re sick of feeling tired and groggy, want to lose weight, feel more positive, save money or reach your health and fitness goals, write down the reasons that you’re taking part and these can help you keep going.

2. Work out your triggers from drinking: Lots of us have ‘triggers’ that make us reach for a glass of wine or a beer. It might be the end of a long day, stress or boredom. If you can work out what your triggers are then you can recognise them and try and avoid them.

3. Treat yourself: Many of us use alcohol as our go-to way to destress or treat ourselves. Think of other ways to be kind to yourself, like having a bath, phoning a friend, getting out for a walk or playing a video game.

4. Get support: Your chance of success improves if you get support. You could do it with a friend or a partner. You can also sign up for free and download the Try Dry app, which has lots of tips for Dry January and helps you track your drinking, calories and units, year round.

5. Think about the future you: Dry January is a great way to kick start a healthier relationship with alcohol longer term. Once it’s over, check in with yourself. Cutting down can make you healthier and happier through the year. As well as the many benefits, you’ll realise that you don’t need alcohol to relax, have fun or socialise.

Alcohol – the risks

Here’s how alcohol can affect us:

Immune system: Alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases such as coronavirus

Cancer: alcohol raises the risks of at least seven types of cancer – of the breast, bowel, mouth, larynx, oesophagus, upper throat and liver.

Heart: Drinking can have a harmful effect on your heart. Alcohol can cause abnormal heart rhythms and damage to your heart muscle.

Stroke: alcohol can increase your risk of stroke, even if you don’t drink very large amounts. And if you’ve had a stroke, alcohol could increase your risk of another stroke. This is because alcohol contributes to a number of medical conditions that are risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, an irregular heartbeat and liver damage.

Blood pressure: Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels which can lead to other serious health conditions. High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. More than one in four adults nationally are living with high blood pressure.

Mental health: Alcohol is sometimes used by people to try and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, but excessive drinking is likely to make those symptoms worse. About one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.

Liver: Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time means the liver doesn’t get a chance to recover. This can result in serious and permanent damage. Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, which is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year olds.

Weight: Many people aren’t sure about the number of calories in their drinks but reducing your drinking is an important way to help you lose weight. Being overweight can lead to many serious health conditions and can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke, type two diabetes and vascular dementia.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054