Dry January has taken the world by storm since its debut in 2013. Millions of people participate every year to reexamine their relationship with drinking and reap the health and financial benefits of cutting alcohol. In fact, 72 percent of participants reduce their risky drinking behavior following participation in Dry January. 

As we approach the New Year under quarantine, we wanted to see how American interest in sobriety has changed and dive into which cities are the most interested in Dry January 2021. 

Here’s what we’ve found through our survey and research into Google Search Trends:

  • Just 10 percent of Americans plan to participate in Dry January 2021 — a 29 percent drop from 2020
  • 67 percent of Americans don’t see a personal benefit to Dry January
  • American households spend $602 a year on alcohol
  • Burlington, VT leads the cities most interested in Dry January, while Birmingham, AL is the least interested and spends the most on alcohol weekly 

Fewer Americans are Participating in Dry January While Drinking Habits Increase

Interest in Dry January has dropped 29 percent from 2020, with just 10 percent of Americans planning to participate in 2021. Interest has been steadily declining since its peak in 2019 at 23 percent. While interest in Dry January is shrinking, adult drinking habits appear to be increasing. The U.S. government estimates that Americans drink 2.3 gallons of alcohol a year, or about 500 drinks each. 

Why aren’t Americans interested in Dry January? 2021 may be heavily influenced by COVID-19, as our study found that 16 percent of Americans have increased drinking during the quarantine, though a majority of the respondents’ habits have stayed the same. Alcohol sales have soared since the beginning of quarantine. Additionally, many state laws were changed to increase access to alcohol to support small businesses and bars. 

With easier access to alcohol at home and extended isolation, many professionals worry that Americans are turning to alcohol to manage anxiety and loneliness. Excessive drinking can have long-term effects on an individual’s health and negatively affect their relationship with alcohol. 

In addition to their drinking habits, many Americans don’t see the value of going sober for a month. Sixty-seven percent of Americans don’t believe there would be a personal benefit for them to participate in Dry January. The reality is that a month of sobriety can decrease one’s drinking long-term, improve mental and physical health, and save hundreds of dollars

68% of Americans Don’t See a Health or Financial Benefit to Dry January

A majority of Americans don’t believe there are any personal health or financial benefits tied with a month of sobriety. Of those who do see benefits, 15 percent think the boost to their physical health is most important. This is followed by improved mental health and decreased spending — each with eight percent of respondents finding these to be priorities. 

While Americans may not see the benefits of sobriety, years of studies say there’s plenty to gain from Dry January. Ditching alcohol can improve your sleep, immune system, and skin, while also helping you stay fit. 

In addition to the well-known health benefits, a month of sobriety can even save your wallet. Millennials alone spend about $300 a month on alcohol, and the average American spends one percent of their gross income on alcohol per year. That’s just over $600 a year for a typical American household

Even ditching the takeout and drinking at home adds up, and that doesn’t include impulse purchases made while inebriated. An estimated 79 percent of drinkers have purchased something online while drunk, averaging $444 spent a year.

Once all of these savings are added up, a sober year could save you over $1,000. U.S. drinkers living in expensive cities could save closer to $3,000.

East Coast Cities are Taking Up Dry January

While interest in Dry January has dropped overall, East Coast metropolitans are the most interested in going sober, including Burlington, Vermont, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the top spots. 

Alternatively, the West has the least interest in Dry January. San Francisco searched “Dry January” the most of any other western city, but still had the least interest when compared to the other top-searching cities. Las Vegas, the least-interested city of the West, also nearly ties Birmingham for the least interested metropolitan area in the U.S. 

#1 Burlington, VT

Leading the way is Burlington, Vermont, which has searched “Dry January” the most over the last five years. Citizens also binge drink more than the average city at 22 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 19 percent. Here are some key facts about Burlington’s alcohol consumption:

  • Burlington has a 9 percent sobriety rate
  • 22 percent of the city binge drinks
  • Citizens spend an average of $47.22 on alcohol weekly

#2 Madison, WI

Madison is known for its craft beer and breweries, so it’s no surprise they also have the highest binge drinking rates of all U.S. metro areas. This heavy drinking habit may be why Madison’s citizens are so interested in taking a month off to recover. 

  • Madison has a 10 percent sobriety rate
  • 28 percent of the city binge drinks — this highest in the U.S. 
  • Citizens spend an average of $40.17 a week

#3 Pittsburgh, PA

This East Coast city rounds out our top three cities going sober in 2021 with the third most searches for “Dry January” over the past five years. The city known for sporting champions and manufacturing also has an expensive drinking habit with an average of $51.47 spend on alcohol a week. 

  • Pittsburgh has a 10 percent sobriety rate
  • Citizens spend an average $51.47 a week — the most of our top three cities

If you’re still considering which New Year’s Resolution to try this year, Dry January may be the perfect fit for you. A sober month can improve your physical well-being, mental health, and save you big on dining and groceries. Plus, it’s a way smaller commitment than a whole year of fitness, though it offers long-lasting benefits to the way you view and consume alcohol. 

Methodology

This study consisted of three survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no fewer than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey ran during November 2020. 

Sources: JAMA Network Open | YouGov 1 & 2 | Expatistan | Google Search Trends

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