By Jasminee Sahoye
The festive season is upon us with lots to eat and drink and some of us will over indulge and face hangovers from excessive drinking. Depending on age, the effects can differ.
A study published earlier this year of hangovers across adulthood has found their severity depends on age.
“While it is true that a hangover is mostly referred to in a humorous way, we could also say they are the most frequent alcohol-related morbidity,” says Janne S. Tolstrup, author of the study, who is also a research program director at the University of Southern Denmark.
“Millions of Euros are wasted each year due to absence from work caused by hangovers. Also there is some evidence that hangovers, rather than being a natural curb on excessive drinking, may actually be a gateway into alcoholism,” she adds.
Jonathan Howland, a professor of emergency medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Boston Medical Injury Prevention Centre, said, “It appears as though not everyone is equally susceptible to hangovers and it is possible that resistance to hangovers plays a role in the development of drinking problems. Furthermore, neurocognitive impairment such as attention / reaction time appears to be a residual next-day effect of intoxication in the presence of a hangover, but not in the absence of a hangover.
“This could have implications for occupational performance and safety.”
“This is the only really large population-based study that has included information on hangovers,” said Tolstrup. “While there have been tens of thousands of studies on the more direct effects of alcohol, there have only been fewer than 200 published papers on the hangover. This paper rectifies that with its very large sample size of 50,000 individuals, including 30,000 older than the age of 40, and makes a major contribution to understanding hangover across the lifespan.
“We plan to use this information for prospective studies on whether individuals who experience hangovers have a different risk for having alcohol-related diseases than individuals who do not experience hangovers.”
Tolstrup and her colleagues used 2007 and 2008 information gathered by the Danish Health Examination Survey, an internet-based health survey that asked participants about their diet, smoking, alcohol and physical activity. Analysis was performed on data provided by 51,645 individuals (24,118 males, 27,527 women) 18 to 94 years of age living in 13 municipalities in Denmark.
“We found that the tendency to have hangovers decreased by increasing age,” said Tolstrup.
“The first explanation that pops up is that this finding would be due to differences in drinking patterns in different age groups. However, trying to account for such differences as much as we could, did not even out the differences in hangover tendency.
“In other words, while it is true that older individuals on average binge-drink less often than younger individuals, we did not find in our data that results were due to differences in drinking patterns.
“It is important to note that we did not assess intensity of binge drinking, just frequency,” added Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University and co-author of the study.
“Given what we know about drinking patterns across the lifespan, it’s likely that our younger drinkers’ binges would have been of greater intensity, involving more alcohol than those of our older drinkers, even though the average weekly consumption was about the same.
“This is one possible explanation of the reduced hangover incidence with increasing age that we found.
“Hangovers predominantly affect younger, less experienced drinkers,” said Stephens. “Younger drinkers in their late teens and 20s are several times more likely to get a hangover than older, more experienced drinkers. In light of links between hangover and risk of alcoholism, younger drinkers should beware.”
Here are some tips to deal with hangovers:
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Many men like fatty foods before they eat because the fat sticks to the stomach lining longer and absorbs more alcohol. But the main idea here is to put volume in your stomach, which will dilute the effects of the alcohol. So be sure and eat something.
- Drink milk: Milk coats the lining of your stomach and can help minimize the amount of alcohol you absorb. At least, that’s the theory. A lot of men use this one but there isn’t any evidence to support it. Still, most nutritionists tell you a glass of milk a day is part of a healthy diet, so there’s really no harm in trying this one.
- Drink olive oil. This is an old Mediterranean remedy and it works on the same theory as eating fatty foods. If there’s any truth to this theory, try dipping some bread in olive oil rather than slathering it with butter.
- Drink water constantly: Match every sip of alcohol with one of water. Water will help keep you from getting too drunk too fast and from feeling the effects the next day. Order a bottle of water with every drink.
- Don’t mix it up. Make it a beer night, or a wine night or a vodka night but don’t make it an “anything goes” night. For one thing, you’ll end up drinking too much. Most drinks don’t mix too well with each other. Your body is going to have a hard enough time handling that rum without throwing in some gin.