"Each year, OMACs [One-Month Alcohol Abstinence Campaigns] attract an increasing number of participants. For example, even if it still represents less than one percent of the Australian adult population in 2019, 44,000 people officially registered for Dry July [28], while they were 16,787 in 2016 and 9,532 in 2010 [34]. Regarding Dry January, 4,000 people participated in the 2014 campaign while they were 3.9 millions in 2020, that is, approximately 7.5% of the UK adult population [35, 36]. However, for ensuring the continued success of such campaigns, it is important to inform participants whether these programs meet harm reduction objectives. This review thus aimed to determine the profile of participants in the different national one-month abstinence campaigns, to estimate the rates and factors of success, and to explore the associated subjective benefits in participating in or completing the challenge.

"Based on the studies pertaining to Dry January, it seems that those taking part in the challenge were more likely to be heavier drinkers, more concerned about their health, and had higher levels of incomes and education. The latter aspects are consistent with those reported elsewhere: the concern for healthy behaviors is more developed among individuals with higher education and incomes [37, 38]. However, this relationship is probably mediated, at least partially, by the overall level of education received, including during school years, suggesting that sustained and universal health education programs could help to bridge this gap [39]. The finding that females were more attracted in participating in abstinence campaigns is possibly in line with the fact that females are in general more concerned about health-related behaviors [40]. However, being a male led to better chance of successfully complete the abstinence campaign, specifically for campaigns promoting restriction of alcohol use. These results may reflect cultural differences across gender, with respect to alcohol use and alcohol-related representations [41].

"Completing the one-month abstinence challenge was found to be associated with lower drinking patterns and better psychosocial functioning at baseline. Thus, it is interesting to note that those participating in the abstinence campaigns had more elevated drinking patterns compared to the non-participating alcohol users, whereas those achieving the challenge had lower drinking patterns compared to those who did not. Another important factor of success was the registration and active participation in social media communities. This is in line with the overall finding that interactive social media on the Internet can be a very effective tool to change health behaviors in the general population [42]. There may be some biases in this finding as participants who registered on social communities might be the most motivated ones, which could explain a better success in achieving the challenge. However, sharing the experience and the difficulties encountered during of a long time period of alcohol abstinence on a virtual community was designated as the most efficient strategy to successfully reach the abstinence goal during the online HSM program [7]. In this program, other strategies which were reported to be efficient to abstain from alcohol include the engagement in alcohol-free activities, the use of non-alcoholic beverages instead of alcohol, support from family and friends, and anticipation of social events [7]. On the contrary, anxiety, stress, negative emotions, social pressure to drink, loneliness, boredom, and no social support were reported as barriers to maintain alcohol abstinence [7]. Considering those dimensions as potential factors for success or failure in national one-month abstinence campaigns would be relevant in further studies.

"Many participants in OMACs reported subjective improvements in health, including improved sleep, weight loss, an increased “energy”. An important finding is that Dry January participants also reported to have tried to increase their physical activity and to improve their diet, which was also reported by Dry July participants during the mid-year health check. This may suggest that these campaigns are actually not merely alcohol-focused for many participants, and might consist for them to a health-focused month, in particular when it is the first month of the year immediately after the end of year celebrations. This finding might have important implications for the evolution of the communication around these prevention campaigns. Moreover, improvement in health after one-month alcohol abstinence was objectively demonstrated for several parameters in a study with drinkers drinking above national guidelines where one-month alcohol abstinence led to a decrease in blood pressure, decrease in circulating concentrations of cancer-related growth factors, decrease in insulin resistance and weight reduction compared to the non-abstinent group [43]."


de Ternay J, Leblanc P, Michel P, Benyamina A, Naassila M, Rolland B. One-month alcohol abstinence national campaigns: a scoping review of the harm reduction benefits. Harm Reduct J. 2022;19(1):24. Published 2022 Mar 4. doi:10.1186/s12954-022-00603-x