One in four think they should cut down their drinking says Drinkaware survey

Date Published

30th December 2020




A fifth of drinkers in the UK (20%) say they plan to take part in Dry January, and 21% intend to take drink-free days during the week. This is according to new research from alcohol education charity Drinkaware.

Other popular ways people will moderate their drinking in January are:

  • Drink within the guidelines (of no more than 14 units a week) – 25%
  • Set a drinking limit – 24%
  • Alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks – 22%

The study of 4,003 UK adults reveals almost a third (31%) of drinkers say they are drinking at increasing or high risk levels (more than the low risk guidelines of 14 units a week) and a quarter (26%) say they think they should cut down on their drinking.

Drinkaware medical advisor, Dr Sarah Jarvis, explains what to expect when you stop drinking: “You might be really pleasantly surprised at how much better you can feel in the short and medium term and of course, at the same time, improve your long term health. Alcohol has a huge impact on our bodies.

“Starting with the brain, it can affect concentration, your mood, your anxiety levels, it can make you prone to depression. But it can also affect your relationships. It can affect you physically. It can affect our immune systems, our guts, our hearts. It can even affect the condition of our skin. So actually, you’ll start to see the benefits really quickly.

“Cut out alcohol – no more hangovers. Really quickly you should see an improvement on your mental health and your sleep levels. That means more energy, and that also of course means better concentration.

“You’d be amazed at how many calories there are in alcohol. So no alcohol, less weight. And in the long term you’re reducing your risk of cancer and alcohol related diseases.

“Liver cancer, stroke, mouth cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure – and if that’s not enough to convince you – it helps in the bedroom too.”

Six ways from Drinkaware to help you cut back in January:
  1. Know your reason why

Your ‘why’ is your motivation for making a change and there are lots of reasons why cutting out or cutting back on alcohol is a positive thing to do. It can help you lose weight, sleep better and improve your mental health and even your relationships. Long-term, it will reduce your risk of seven types of cancer. But it’s important to know your personal ‘why’. By making it personal to you, it will improve your chances of sticking to your goal.

When things feel difficult, reminding yourself of your ‘why’ will give you a boost of motivation and help you walk away from a drink.

  1. Ask for the support of others

Telling your friends and family about your goals can help them understand why you’ll be turning down drinks, or perhaps taking up new activities in place of the pub. Getting their support can also help you stick to your goals.

But there are times when friends and family might not be as supportive as you’d like (and they may not even realise it). If this is the case, remind yourself of your ‘why’ and that you alone are in control of your decisions.  

  1. Avoid ‘all or nothing’ thinking

If you slip up and have a drink you might feel that you’ve blown it completely. But this is ‘all or nothing’ thinking. If you’re trying Dry January for example, a sober 29 days out of 30 is still a brilliant achievement. Be kind to yourself and get back on track as soon as possible. You may have had one drink, but can you recommit to your goal right now and avoid having another?

  1. Take it day by day

Cutting down on drinking is a marathon, not a sprint, so take it day by day. Focusing on one day at a time will help the journey feel more manageable. What can you do to make today a drink-free day?

  1. Take an audit of your habits

The first step to breaking a habit is becoming aware of it in the first place. So take an audit and think about the times when you would usually drink. Do you always have a drink with certain friends, or at a certain time? Create alterative plans instead. You could make sure you only have alcohol-free drinks in the house, for example. Or, you could make a completely different plan for those times – like having a bath instead of having a drink to relax, or going for a walk instead of drinking to reduce stress. The key is to become aware of your habits and then form new, healthier ones instead.

  1. Congratulate yourself

Remember, reducing how much you drink is great for your health. So always congratulate yourself for what you have achieved, no matter how small the milestone is. Even sticking within the low risk drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units a week, with at least three drink-free days, will have significant health benefits. So keep going – you can do this!


Notes to editor

For further information or comment please contact the Drinkaware media team on 020 7766 9910 /

About the research:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Opinium. Total sample size was 4,003 UK adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9 and 10 December 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Drinkaware is an independent charity which aims to reduce alcohol-related harm by helping people make better choices about their drinking. We achieve this by providing impartial, evidence-based information, advice and practical resources; raising awareness of alcohol and its harms and working collaboratively with partners. / @drinkaware