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Hangovers and Age

hangover and age

Most Americans will admit to over imbibing from time to time, maybe having one too many glasses of wine with dinner or celebrating a little too much over a major milestone with friends.

Early on, these binge drinking sessions may not come with too many consequences. However, as you age, the mornings after may not always be pleasant. It’s not uncommon to hear people in their 30s and 40s claim “I can’t hang like I could in my 20s,” but how accurate is this statement? Do hangovers really worsen as you age? To find out, we surveyed 996 people about the drinking behaviors that led to their most recent hangover. Continue reading to learn what they had to say.

Drink by Drink

If you persistently participate in heavy drinking, waking up with a hangover should not come as a surprise. The more you drink, the more likely you are to have a hangover.

heavy drinking in the US
Heavy drinking refers to four or more drinks for women in one session and five or more for men. Many people admitted to drinking heavily at least one day out of the year, but the age group most likely to do this in 2018 were those aged 25 to 44, with men overindulging almost 14 percentage points more than women.

Although heavy drinking increased between 2008 and 2018 for people aged 25 to 65 and older, it decreased for those between the ages of 18 and 24. According to Forbes, millennials are drinking less often due to it being seen as a “faux pas.” Millennials are more interested in deeper, mindful, and authentic connections with their peers than just socializing while drinking.

Waking Up Is Hard to Do

Your alarm clock goes off the morning after a night out, and the last thing you want to do is get out of bed. Your head is pounding, and a gallon of water would be very helpful. These are symptoms of a hangover.

And the severity of hangovers may vary from person to person. In our survey, millennials were the most likely to report their last hangover as moderate to severe, while baby boomers were most likely to say their last hangover was somewhat severe.

hangover details
As noted previously, millennials no longer drink as often; however, we did find that when they do drink, they drink heavily, as a greater number of younger respondents reported binge drinking at least one day in 2018. This could be why millennials experience worse hangovers than their older counterparts. Millennials might not be used to drinking regularly and, thus, may not anticipate the repercussions.

The severity of a hangover not only seems to depend on age – it may also depend on what and how much was drunk the night before the hangover. On average, people reported drinking about eight alcoholic beverages during the session preceding their last hangover, mixing an average of two types of drinks.

Alcoholic drinks have different ingredients and byproducts, which can drastically affect how they will affect you. For example, drinks that contain more congeners – a chemical that is produced during the fermentation process that contributes to the beverage’s taste, smell, and appearance – are more likely to give someone a hangover. These include whiskey, brandy, and red wine. Coincidentally, red wine was the third most consumed drink by both millennials and Gen Xers the session before their last hangover, and whiskey was third for baby boomers.

I Solemnly Swear

How many times have you woken up after a night of drinking and promised you’d never drink again? While 25% of people said they swore they’d never drink alcohol again after their last hangover, 73% went back on their promise and drank alcohol again. Out of the generations, millennials were the most likely to consume alcohol again.

practicing sobriety asset
It might be easier for people to give up a specific drink rather than alcohol as a whole. In fact, over half of the people who claimed they would never imbibe in a particular drink again actually followed through.

If you find, however, that no matter what you drink, you can’t seem to maintain control, it might be wise to abstain from alcohol altogether rather than the specific drink that caused your most recent hangover.

Thirsty Thursday, Freaky Friday?

All too often, people are met with feelings of anxiety and stress after heavy drinking, especially if they have work or important tasks on the schedule the next morning. Almost half of respondents reported feeling these things during their most recent hangover.

hangxiety asset
Hangover-induced anxiety, also known as “hangxiety,” can be described as overwhelming feelings of nervousness. Hangovers can be thought of as “mini-withdrawals” from alcohol, as your body has become accustomed to the euphoria felt while under the influence. When you’re no longer in that state, the mind can be severely affected. Alcohol may increase all the “feel-good” dopamine in your body, but it also interrupts other neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which mainly influences your moods and emotions. Sometimes, though, hangxiety can completely disrupt your day, leaving you unable to function effectively.

Drinking can also lead to negative mood swings, including anxiety and anger, due to the fluctuation in blood sugar while consuming alcohol.

The top thing that people felt “hangxious” over was being physically unwell. But a lack of productivity was also a concern. The second and third reasons for hangxiety were not performing well and regret over lost productivity due to their hangover.

Here Comes the Anxiety and Stress

The anxiety and stress that come along with a hangover can vary depending on the alcohol in which people indulge. Darker, sweeter drinks, such as brandy, red wine, and whiskey, can cause more of a hangover than clear alcohol like white wine or vodka. Spirits that are not refined will also cause worse symptoms.

hangxiety symptoms asset
Beer and liquor drinkers said they most often felt anxious, while wine drinkers said stress was at the top of their hangover symptom list.

However, across the board, anxiety and stress along with sadness and depression were felt no matter the alcohol consumed. Heightened anxiety is said to be the worst hangover symptom. The initial effects of being drunk – when you sometimes feel on top of the world – don’t last forever. And as soon as they go away, hangxiety can ensue.

Aftereffects

As if feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed because of a hangover wasn’t enough, you probably also don’t feel physically well. Some of the most common hangover symptoms included a headache, fatigue, and an upset stomach. On the surface, these appear to be similar to other minor ailments. However, a hangover can feel much worse, often affecting people’s daily routine more severely than a cold. Thirty-two percent of people felt so sick from their hangover that they had to cancel their plans for the day – and the majority were millennials.

hangover symptoms asset
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes impossible to let a hangover get in the way of work. Almost 67% of people had gone to work hungover, but the generation most likely to miss work was Gen Xers. Only 38.5% of millennials had missed work due to a hangover. This could be because many millennials work from home, so if they feel sick, they could stay in bed and work.

When it came to what drinks caused what symptoms, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Headaches were still the No. 1 symptom for many alcoholic beverages, including beer, vodka, whiskey, and red and white wine. Red wine was the only drink, however, that people said caused headaches and fatigue equally. Red wine is said to cause bad migraines due to its amount of histamine, which a lot of people cannot properly metabolize.

Finding the Cure

We’ve all searched the internet, scouring for the best hangover remedies. But what actually works? Most people believed sleeping it off and drinking a lot of fluids did the trick.

curing a hangover asset
Sleep is definitely a good idea, as drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect your sleep quality and intensify symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and irritability. Sleeping off your hangover allows the body to recover.

Rehydrating after drinking is just as important as getting an adequate amount of sleep, though. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it increases the production of urine, which increases the loss of fluid and electrolytes that the body needs to function properly. Dehydration can contribute to many of the symptoms associated with a hangover, such as headaches and dizziness, fatigue, and thirstiness.

Age did not matter when it came to a hangover cure: Millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers all considered sleep and fluids the top two remedies. Baby boomers, however, were a little more likely to turn to medication to help treat their hangovers. Some of the most used medications for hangovers include Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief and Stanback, both of which help to reduce substances in the body that cause pain, fever, and inflammation. The generic drug for each of these would be aspirin.

At the End of the Day

Alcohol doesn’t discriminate. Hangovers are no fun – no matter what you consume, how many drinks you have, or how old you are. As our study found, hangover symptoms were reported by all age groups, although sometimes more from millennials.

Despite some people assuming hangovers worsen as they get older, that is not always the case. Millennials complained more about their hangovers being severe than baby boomers, and millennials were also more likely to cancel their plans because of a hangover. Baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials also experienced “hangxiety.”

If you feel as though you might be experiencing these feelings too often, though, there are people who can help. Behind every hungover morning is a night of binge drinking, and behind every binge is the potential for addiction. At Ambrosia Treatment Center, we treat the science behind addiction. Even if you just need someone to talk to, we’re  here to show our support. Visit us to learn more.

Methodology and Limitations

For this project, we surveyed 996 respondents with a hangover in the past month about their drinking behavior leading to the hangover and the symptoms they experienced during their hangover. 46.4% of respondents identified as women, and 53.6% identified as men.

Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 69 with an average age of 35 and a standard deviation of 11.

The generations were distributed among respondents as the following: 714 millennials, 202 Gen Xers, and 48 baby boomers.

Our data rely on self-reporting by the respondents. No statistical testing was performed.

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