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#330 Resolving New Year’s Resolutions

What does research say about New Year’s resolutions?

Please note that this TFP article is in the spirit of the holidays and is intended for fun only. It has not been peer reviewed or certified.

The average New Year’s resolution is kept for 42 days. Depending on how you define “success,” ~33-55% of people who make New Year’s resolutions are “successful” at one year, with “slip-ups” happening ~14 times over two years. Resolutions aimed at “goodness” might be more likely followed. Suggesting resolutions to others, especially spouses and particularly around their weight, is never a good idea. A resolution to have no resolution could save an average of $250, but you can’t put a price on following your dreams.

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How long do resolutions last?
  • Two studies (41 and 1066 participants): 33%-55% participants kept their resolution at one year.1,2
  • 200 participants: 19% maintained resolutions at two years.3
  • Mean resolution duration: 42 days.4
What are popular resolutions?
  • Physical health (example: exercise) (33%) and weight loss (20%).1
  • More unique resolutions included: Watching all Star Wars movies,2 vowing to never be in a rock band again,4 and spending more time with spouse in the bedroom2 (since not specified in the study, we are unsure if this refers to getting more sleep or something else entirely).
Are some resolutions more likely to be kept?
  • 41 participants: Resolutions aimed at “goodness” (example: “uplifting your employees”) were more likely to be kept than diet/exercise resolutions (77% versus ~30%) at 11 months.2
Should I buy a scale to monitor my weight loss resolution?
  • 52 students:4 Compared monitoring with a scale versus no monitoring.
    • No difference in weight at three months.
Should I give up after slipping up?
  • 200 people:3 Mean number of slip-ups over two years: 14
Should I suggest resolutions for others to follow?
  • 61 university students:5 More likely to stick to personal goals at one month than imposed goals.
    • Limitations: Did not investigate potential harms of suggesting resolutions to one’s significant other.

  • Canadians spend $252 per year on failed resolutions.6
  • Although we are often told “the time to act is now,” there are no studies looking at whether the time to act is actually later, such as after a nap.7
  • New Year’s Resolution inspiration is available from The Office here

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  • Samantha Moe PharmD
  • Adrienne Lindblad BSP ACPR Pharm

1. Oscarsson M, Carlbring P, Andersson G, et al. PloS One. 2020; 15(12): e0234097.

2. Ludvigsson JF. Lakartidningen. 2015 Dec 15; 112:DTAL.

3. Norcross(B) NC, Vangarelli. J Substance Abuse. 1989; 127-34.

4. Marlatt GA, Kaplan BE. Psychological Reports. 1972; 30:123-131.

5. Koestner R, Lekes N, Powers TA, et al. J Personality Social Psych. 2002; 83(1): 231-244.

6. Amanat H. What New Year’s Resolutions are Canadians making for 2023? CTV news. Available at: Accessed December 12, 2022.

7. Ford N, Brigden G, Ellman T, et al. BMJ. 2020; 371: m4143.

Neither author makes new year’s resolutions. One author can’t even stay up until midnight.