What motivates people to cut back or quit drinking?

As previously mentioned, we've completed a deeply unscientific (small sample size) survey of people who’ve successfully cut back or quit drinking, and we’ve learned a lot coming out of it that we want to share with you.

This time, we want to share what we’ve learned about why people decide to cut back or quit drinking. A lot of us struggle with deciding if we should give up alcohol completely, and there are tests out there (like the WHO Audit) that can help you understand the level of problem you have with alcohol.

But what are the reasons that ultimately got others to quit? Maybe by looking at them you can get a sense for whether they apply to your situation or not.

Here’s what we learned:

  1. In 60% of cases, there was a specific incident that prompted them to cut back quit drinking. Most of them time it was either A) an incident where people injured themselves or others in an accident or B) an incident where drinking had an adverse impact on somebody’s love life or job (something else more important than drinking in their lives).

  2. The downsides of drinking that drove most people to quit were actually fairly mundane. This surprised us at the time, but it makes sense now. In order, the top four were: calories (76%), hangovers (72%), bad decisions (72%), and embarrassing moments (64%). The reason this makes sense is that all of these consequences are ones we can observe quickly - they don’t take years to develop, like addiction or disease.

  3. Few people (56% for anxiety and 44% for depression) cut back or quit drinking because they saw their feelings as a problem. This made us wonder if perhaps people don’t realize how connected these mental health problems and drinking are. Drinking can cause anxiety and worsen depression. Cutting back or quitting drinking can actually make it easier to solve those other problems too.

  4. You don’t have to be drinking at a dangerous level to see benefits to quitting or cutting back. Fully 40% of those we surveyed who successfully quit or cut back were within moderation guidelines for men in the US (under 14 drinks in a week). Of course a majority were drinking more, but it’s worth realizing that sobriety has benefits even at the lower end of the drinking spectrum.

If you’ve already cut back on drinking, or quit, we’d love to hear from you about what you did! If you haven’t yet quit or cut back on drinking, but want to, we’d love to help! Drinker’s Helper is an app that can be used for moderation or quitting drinking, and offers support groups, tracking, insights, and exercises to make it easier.