Eight reasons why hangovers get worse with age
No, you’re not imagining it, your hangovers are steadily getting worse with age — experts say that after 29, we become less able to deal with the consequences of drinking alcohol. Here, Saffron Alexander tells us why...
In your youth, you might have been able to spend an evening at the pub, knocking back pint after pint with barely a hint of a headache the morning after, but nowadays, more than one glass of wine has you clinging to the sofa with a bucket by your side... and this is why.
1 Your body can’t process the drinks
While you may have been able to down Jägerbomb after
Jägerbomb back when you were a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed university student, your body just can’t keep up with that kind of lifestyle anymore.
Dr Chris van Tulleken says hangovers are the result of a complex inflammatory response: “Your body deals with all systemic insults less and less effectively once you’re north of 25, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a car crash, a severe infection or a night on the town, you’ll take longer to recover.”
2 You’ve gained body fat
Putting on weight is an (almost) inevitable by-product of ageing and a high percentage of the weight exists in the form of body fat.
As fat can’t absorb alcohol, generally the more body fat you have, the lower your tolerance to alcohol and the greater your chance of getting an awful hangover the next morning. This is why women, who typically have more body fat than men, are often reported to have lower tolerance levels.
3 You have less water in your system
Even if you make sure you’re getting your recommended eight glasses of water a day, the fact of the matter is as we get older, our body water content decreases.
Not only does this increase the risk of dehydration, but it also means the alcohol remains in a more concentrated form in your system for longer.
To further reduce the risks of a hangover as you age, experts recommend drinking “water or juice between each alcoholic drink to keep you hydrated and slow down your alcohol consumption”.
4 You’re on medication
The older you get, the more likely it is you’ll be taking medication or supplements designed to offset those pesky ailments that come with ageing.
While you shouldn’t mix alcohol with medication, people inevitably do and this can alter the way your body breaks down alcohol, causing your hangovers to seem worse than before. Best way to avoid a hangover if you’re taking medication? Just don’t drink.
5 Your life is becoming more stressful
Life is stressful and it only gets more stressful as time goes by. It can seem like drinking helps to alleviate any stress or anxiety you might be feeling but the euphoria doesn’t last long and only serves to make you feel worse afterwards.
Hangover expert Aaron White, PhD, senior scientific advisor to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says: “When the alcohol wears off, the euphoria is over and the parts of your brain that were off become more active so you feel way more anxious and depressed until everything returns to normal.”
6 You’re just not that into it anymore
As much you might want to stay up partying ‘til the break of dawn, neither your body or your brain can handle that kind of fun anymore.
Dr Chris van Tulleken says: “All things become less joyful as we age for neurological reasons but, as our lives get more complex, losing a couple of days to a bender creates a lot more self-loathing when you have bills to pay than it did when you simply missed a couple of lectures at university.”
7 You eat take-away while you’re drinking
While kebabs and beer seemingly go hand in hand, you should probably think twice about
making a visit down to your local kebab shop after a night of drinking.
Kebabs, pizza, chips, burgers and pretty much anything else you’re likely to find in a restaurant open past midnight, willing to cater to you and your drunken pals, have ridiculously high in fat, causing your liver to work overtime and stopping it from processing the alcohol in your blood.
8 You’re over 29
You may be ‘young at heart’ and convinced you can handle drinking like an 18-year-old, but your body has other ideas.
A 2013 survey from Redemption — a group that promotes alcohol-free bars — found that ‘peak hangover’ age is much younger than most of us would like think — 29.
They say our ability to deal with hangovers effectively begins to decrease at this age because we refuse to accept that our bodies just can’t handle the bad drinking habits from our younger years.