Every year people around the world make New Year’s resolutions to reach their goals, improve their health, and better their lives. Many people are successful at keeping their resolutions, while many others fail.
In this article you will find statistics on the success and failure rates of New Year resolutions, a breakdown of the different resolutions people have made over the years, how resolutions vary by geographic location, by age and generation, and more. You’ll also find data from studies that suggest how you can be successful and keep your resolutions in 2020.
New Year’s Resolution Statistics
Table of Contents
Success and Failure Statistics
Overall success/failure rates
- According to a 2016 study, of the 41% of Americans who make New Years resolutions, by the end of the year only 9% feel they are successful in keeping them.
- An earlier study in 2007 showed that 12% of people who set resolutions are successful even though 52% of the participants were confident of success at the beginning.
Success/Failure rates over the first 6 months
- Of those who make a New Year’s resolution, after 1 week 75% are still successful in keeping it.
- After two weeks, the number drops to 71%.
- After 1 month, the number drops again to 64%.
- And after 6 months, 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it.
- In comparison, of those people who have similar goals but do not set a resolution, only 4% are still successful after 6 months.
Reasons for failure
- In one 2014 study, 35% of participants who failed their New Year’s Resolutions said they had unrealistic goals.
- 33% of participants who failed didn’t keep track of their progress.
- 23% forgot about their resolutions.
- About one in 10 people who failed said they made too many resolutions.
The Most Popular Resolutions
Year after year, being healthier is consistently the most popular New Year’s resolution, whether that’s eating healthier, exercising more, or losing weight. Saving money is the next most popular resolution.
- In 2020, one of the most popular New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier – 44% of UK respondents chose this resolution, 44% of Polish participants, and 43% of Americans.
- In 2019, one survey found that more than half of Americans wanted to be healthier – 59% wanted to exercise more, 54% said they would eat healthier, and 48% resolved to lose weight.
- About half of Americans in 2018 wanted to start the year by saving money (53%) and by getting in shape (45%).
- Only 16% of participants in a 2018 survey wanted to quit smoking which was once the most popular New Year’s resolution ever.
- In 2017, a study at Stockholm University found that more than 70% of the participants reported one or more resolutions falling into the “physical health” category. The second largest category was “self-improvement” (10%), followed by “psychological health” (5%).
- In 2014, the US government found that about half of the most popular resolutions made each year are health-related.
- The most popular health-related resolutions in 2014 were losing weight and quitting smoking, followed by eating healthier foods, getting fit, managing stress, and drinking less alcohol.
- A study from Finland in 2000 found that twice as many serious attempts to quit smoking are made in January compared with other months.
- In 1998, 51% of Americans resolved to eat more fruits and vegetables, 67% resolved to exercise more, 61% resolved to eat healthier, 58% wanted to reduce their stress level, 49% wanted to eat less fat, and 48% resolved to lose weight.
- Only 23% of survey participants planned on making new years resolutions.
- The most popular resolutions for 2022 are living healthier (23%), personal improvement and happiness (21%), and losing weight (20%).
- 31% of survey participants plan on making resolutions for 2021 while 19% are still undecided.
- The most popular resolutions for 2021 are exercising more and improving fitness (50% of participants), losing weight (48%), saving money (44%), and improving diet (39%).
- Only 27% of survey participants made any resolutions for 2020.
- Overall, the most popular resolutions for 2020 are to exercise more (50%), save money (49%), and eat healthier (43%).
- Most participants (64%) kept some of the same resolutions from 2019 and also made some new ones.
- 57% chose not to make a New Year’s resolution for 2019.
- The most popular resolutions going into 2019 were to exercise more (59%), eat healthier (54%), save money (51%), and lose weight (48%).
- Baby boomers want to lose more weight (53%) but place less importance on saving money (39%) compared to the younger generations.
- Millennials are the most confident in keeping all their resolutions (39%).
- Gen Z is 4x more concerned with finding love than any other age group.
- Losing weight is more important to those who live in the Midwest, while exercising is more important for those on the West Coast.
- The southern states find it more important to drink less alcohol, but the Northeast has more people that would like to stop drinking alcohol completely.
- The Northeast is almost twice as likely to want to spend more time volunteering in the community.
- Urban dwellers were the most likely to keep all their resolutions (10%) while rural residents were the least likely (4%).
- Just under half of all survey participants thought that New Year’s resolutions are pointless.
- And 22% of participants said that making resolutions have helped them improve their lives.
How to Keep a New Year’s Resolution
1. Develop the necessary skills and mindset ahead of time.
Multiple studies have shown that self‐efficacy and readiness to change predicted positive outcomes for those who made New Year’s resolutions.
Having the skills necessary to change was another important factor.
Conversely, social support and behavioral skills were not predictors of a successful outcome.
In another study, men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting and set their New Year’s resolutions in terms of small and measurable goals such as “lose 1 pound a week” instead of “lose weight”.
2. Ask a question instead of making a declaration.
The “question-behavior effect” is a phenomenon in which asking people about performing a certain behavior influences whether they do it in the future. The effect has been shown to last more than six months after questioning.
For people making New Year’s resolutions, a question like, “Will I exercise – yes or no?” may be more effective than declaring, “I will exercise.”
3. Get plenty of sleep.
According to sleep expert and neurologist Cathy Goldstein, M.D., sleep plays a major factor in the success (or failure) of the most popular New Year resolutions.
For those trying to lose weight or eat healthier, a lack of sleep decreases leptin which is the hormone that makes you feel full. It also boosts ghrelin aka the ‘hunger hormone’ which increases appetite, promotes fat storage, and causes poor food choices.
For those with fitness goals, researchers have found adequate sleep improves speed, strength and endurance in athletes.
For those aiming to improve work performance or get a promotion, a lack of sleep leads to reduced productivity. Additionally, sleep-deprived people in management roles are described as less ethical and not as alert, motivated or cheerful.
For those who want to boost their social lives, a lack of sleep contributes to poor mood and markedly worsened social interactions.
And for those looking to quit smoking, a lack of sleep is tied to higher rates of nicotine dependence.
4. Change your timing.
Don’t necessarily wait for the new year to make a resolution. Bas Verplanken, a professor of social psychology at the University of Bath, says that the success of a resolution which alters a habit can hinge on finding the right moment to make the change.
Verplanken has been studying the discontinuity effect which shows that habits can be more easily changed when you change the factors that surround the habit such as location or context. Embed the change you want in other changes, such as moving to a new home where your daily habits around commuting, energy use, shopping, etc. are already changing.
Don’t let the statistically high likelihood of failure put you off from making a New Year’s resolution. Set yourself up for success using the strategies in this article, and at the very least fail forward. Learn from your experiences, and even if you don’t achieve your goal, you’ll still be closer to it than you were at the start of the year.