Remember being 21, drinking whatever you could get your hands on (i.e the cheapest booze) with nary but a piece of toast to line your stomach? And somehow the next morning, you were still fine to make it to uni, or work, or just a day of youthful hedonism?
Well yeah, at some point that changes and out comes the hangover from hell to humble you.
There’s something about getting older that makes you more likely to experience the dreaded hangover sickness – headaches, a raging stomach, nausea, and other fun things.
And now, researchers have put a number on when you’re most likely to feel rough. And sorry 34-year-olds, it’s not looking good.
Greeting cards company Thortful carried out a survey of 2,000 people and found that post 34, you’re likely to start getting raging hangovers. And after 35, the dreaded after effects of drinking seem to last two days.
The survey found that we only start realising our boozy limits at age 37, while a year later is when people feel ‘too old’ to go out-out.
You’d think that as we get older, and thus more acclimatised to drinking, our bodies would be used to it. But actually it’s kind of the opposite.
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,” Booker previously told HuffPost UK.
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, explained 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 said. “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. “More body fat and less muscle make the alcohol we consume more concentrated in the body, leading to dehydration and worsening the dreaded hangover,” Booker said.
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, said 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 said
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.