Do Hangovers Actually Get Worse As You Get Older?

We're not as young as we once were.

Once upon a time, you could drink your local dry and shake it off the morning after with some paracetamol – your uni lecturer or boss would be non-the-wiser. Now? Even a glass of Pinot Grigio will leave you feeling awful come morning.

We often say hangovers get worse as you get older, but is that actually true? We asked two experts and sadly, they answered with a resounding ‘yes’.

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As we mature, hangovers are likely to be prolonged and feel more severe, says Lauren Booker, author of ‘Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month Off Booze’, and consultant for Alcohol Change UK. This is because everything slows down as we age – including our livers, which find it harder to process alcohol into harmless waste products.

“This means there are more toxins in our bodies for longer as they’re broken down more slowly into carbon dioxide and water,” says Booker.

But before it can get to the CO2 and water stage, alcohol is broken down by the liver into a number of different substances, including the compound acetaldehyde. Dr Niall Campbell, consultant psychiatrist at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital, explains that as we age, our ability to metabolise acetaldehyde is reduced.

“That’s what you can smell on a heavy drinker’s breath the morning after the night before,” he says. “High acetaldehyde levels in heavy, steady drinkers is increasingly implicated in causing cancer.”

To add insult to injury, we’re just not fit as we once were, adds Booker. “More body fat and less muscle make the alcohol we consume more concentrated in the body, leading to dehydration and worsening the dreaded hangover,” she says.

After your mid-twenties it takes the body longer to recover from anything due to increasing levels of inflammation and chronic diseases, which your immune system and liver are busy fighting, adds Dr Campbell.

You’re also more likely to be taking prescription medication as you get older. “These medicines can alter the way your body breaks down alcohol, leaving you with a worse hangover,” he says.

Booker recommends drinking more water before, during and after boozing to limit the effects of alcohol as we age. But of course, the only way to truly avoid a hangover (and the long term damaging impacts of alcohol) is to cut your intake altogether. *Sighs*

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