South Tynesiders are being urged to ditch the booze and lead healthier lives this January.
Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is calling on friends, families and work colleagues in South Tyneside to come together and take on the 2018 Dry January challenge, as a recent YouGov poll found almost one in 10 people in the North East – 168,899 people – are already planning on taking part.
Now in its sixth year, Alcohol Concern’s Dry January asks people to put the excesses of the festive period behind them and start the New Year with 31 days off the booze to feel healthier, save money and re-set their relationship with alcohol.
The campaign launches today, which marks one of the busiest days of the year for the emergency services as Christmas parties lead to alcohol-related injuries and violence.
Alcohol harm costs the region an estimated £1.01billion every year, including £209m to the NHS and £331m in crime and disorder costs, equating to around £386 for every man, woman and child.
With recent findings showing more than one in four people in the North East are drinking above the low risk guidelines of 14 units a week for both men and women, Dry January encourages people to take a break which can give the body a chance to recover.
Alongside South Tyneside Council at the Groyne Lighthouse in South Shields, Balance is promoting the benefits of people giving their bodies a break from booze, including losing weight, sleeping better and saving money.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “After the excesses of the festive period, Dry January is a great opportunity to give your body a break from alcohol at a time when many other people are also taking a month off.
“Drinking above the low risk limit puts us at more risk from around 60 different medical conditions, including at least seven types of cancer. Regular drinking also makes us more tired, anxious and less productive, so taking some time out can have real positive effects on our health and wellbeing.
“Dry January can also stop drinking becoming too much of a regular thing – research shows three-quarters of people who complete the month are drinking at lower levels six months on.
“We’re encouraging people to get family, friends and colleagues on board too. It can be a real motivating factor taking on a challenge together and we know that it can make us more likely to succeed.”
This year’s campaign is again supported by South Tyneside Council, who are joining the calls for local people to take on the challenge.
Councillor Tracey Dixon, Lead Member for Independence and Wellbeing, said: “After the Christmas festivities, the start of a new year is the perfect time for people to think about their drinking habits and make a fresh start.
“Long-term alcohol misuse is a major risk factor for a wide range of serious conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and liver disease. As well as health problems, it can lead to social issues such as unemployment, relationship breakdowns, domestic abuse and homelessness.
“I would encourage people to take up the Dry January challenge as it really is the best way to start the New Year."
Helen Duffy, Support Services Manager for the Adult Social Care Team at South Tyneside Council, can’t wait to take part in Dry January to help raise money for charity.
The 48-year-old from Boldon is a trustee for The Charlie Cookson Foundation and has regularly been going booze free for the last two to three years to fundraise for the South Shields charity. Now she is also looking forward to helping raise funds for Alcohol Concern.
She said: “I definitely think doing it for charity also helps to keep you motivated.
"My advice to anyone taking part in Dry January for the first time would be to sign up and make it public.
"When you have committed to do something for charity it makes it much easier to see it through, as you don’t want to let them down.
"I now find it quite easy as I focus on the end goal of handing over money I’ve raised to a worthwhile cause.
“I have discovered things that work for me. I tend to drink Tonic Water and I offer to drive as I don’t mind giving family and friend lifts while I’m not drinking.
"I also incorporate going alcohol free with eating healthily, as I know I will lose weight once I stop drinking.
"Overall, I feel great when I have a break from drinking and encourage everyone to sign up to Dry January to see what a difference it can make.”