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Like a good wine: How your age affects your hangover

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Contrary to popular belief, older people are less likely to report experiencing a hangover after a night of drinking, according to a new study from Denmark.

The study surveyed nearly 52,000 people ages 18 to 94 on their drinking habits, including how often they experienced symptoms of a hangover (such as nausea, headache, heart racing and vomiting) after binge drinking, defined as consuming more than five alcoholic drinks on a single occasion.

The occurrence of a hangover after binge drinking decreased with age, the researchers said.

For instance, the odds of experiencing a hangover after binge drinking were 11 times higher among men ages 18 to 29 compared to men ages 60 and over. For women, the odds of experiencing a hangover were eight times higher among those ages 18 to 29 compared to those ages 60 and over. [11 Interesting Facts About Hangovers]

Hangover symptoms also varied with people's age, with older people reporting fewer hangover symptoms after binge drinking compared to younger people. About 10 percent of men and 21 percent of women ages 18 to 29 said they experienced nausea after binge drinking, compared to 1.5 percent of men and 3 percent of women ages 60 and over.

The results held even after the researchers took into account participants' usual alcohol intake, and the frequency of their binge drinking. Average alcohol intake was similar between the old and young — about 14 to 15 drinks per week — but younger people reported engaging in binge drinking more often.

Older people may be less likely to experience hangover symptoms after binge drinking because they simply drink less in a given binge, the researchers said. A recent study in the United States found that, among binge drinkers, those ages 18 to 24 consumed an average of nine drinks per binge, while those ages 65 and older consumed an average of six drinks.

"It seems likely that older adults who binge do so to a lesser intensity than younger adults and consequently experience fewer and less-severe hangovers," the researchers write in the study, published online today (Sept. 12) in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Older people may be more adept at knowing how to avoid or reduce hangover symptoms, for instance, by consuming water after drinking alcohol, or choosing alcohols that are lighter in color, the researchers said.

It's also possible that people who are more prone to hangovers quit drinking as they get older. The study did not include people who said they did not drink alcohol at all.

The researchers noted that the study was based on survey data, and defined binge drinking as five or more drinks, so it could not assess whether hangover symptoms vary across ages for a given amount of alcohol. Future studies should look at this question, the researchers said.

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