Alcohol hangover across the lifespan: impact of sex and age

Joris C. Verster *, Noortje R. Severeijns, Annabel S. M. Sips, Hama M. Saeed, Sarah Benson, Andrew Scholey, Gillian Bruce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Aim
To investigate the relationship between age and hangover frequency and severity.

Method
An online survey, generated through Facebook, collected self-report data relating to alcohol consumption from 761 Dutch alcohol consumers aged 18–94 years (61.6% female).

Results
Overall, young individuals consumed more alcohol than older drinkers, and men more than women. Significant interactions between age group and sex were found for both subjective intoxication and hangover severity, indicating that the sex differences in these variables were greatest in the younger age groups but became significantly smaller or absent in the older age groups. Partial correlations, correcting for estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC), revealed significant and negative partial correlations between age and subjective intoxication (r = −0.444, P < 0.0001), age and hangover severity (r = −0.327, P < 0.0001) and between age and hangover frequency (r = −0.195, P < 0.0001), i.e. subjective intoxication, hangover severity and hangover frequency decline with age. With regard to sex differences, the observed correlations with age for the past month heaviest drinking occasion were stronger in men for subjective intoxication, (z = −2.25, P = 0.024), hangover severity (z = −3.36, P = 0.0008) and hangover frequency (z = −3.63, P = 0.0003).

Conclusions
Hangover severity declines with age, even after controlling for eBAC or the amount of alcohol consumed. Sex differences were greatest in the younger age groups but became significantly smaller or absent in the older age groups. The relationship between age and hangover severity is strongly mediated by subjective intoxication. Pain sensitivity, lower with aging, might be a mediator.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-598
Number of pages10
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Volume56
Issue number5
Early online date5 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • ethanol
  • alcohol drinking
  • pain threshold
  • intoxication
  • hangover from alcohol

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