Gone are those crazy nights when recovery time was minimal. Your hangovers now seem to last an entire day or more. Both anecdotal and scientific evidence tends to suggest that hangovers really get worse with age. So what is happening to us? Science has the answers!
Less efficiency. With age, your body becomes less efficient at processing your drinks. In short, your body has become less efficient at breaking down alcohol. Alcohol is a toxicant, so your body has to break it down and get rid of the toxic parts. Your liver has to break the toxin, ethanol, into something it can digest. The enzymes are responsible for this. This work’s fairly well when you are young because you have more enzymes, but they decrease when you get older making that hangover seem worse and worse. Our body just can’t keep up with that kind of lifestyle anymore.
Body fat percentage matters. Generally the more body fat you have, the lower your tolerance to alcohol and the greater your chance of getting an awful hangover the next morning. This is why women, who typically have more body fat than men, are often reported to have lower tolerance levels.
Your life has evolved. Some may say that you are more “mature” now. According to neurobiologist George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “The biggest effect probably has to do what happens to your brain,” Koob says. He says that in your early twenties, your brain has a highly developed “reward system,” and a not-very-developed “stress system.” That means that your young-person brain gives you awesome and positive feedback when you do adventurous and fun things (like, yes, getting DRUNJJJ), but it doesn’t punish you (with hangovers and miserable body feels) so much after the fact — that “stress system” hasn’t fully developed yet.
Water is key to most things in life. In most cases, regardless of how much water your drink, the older, our body water content decreases.
Not only does this increase the risk of dehydration, but it also means the alcohol remains in a more concentrated form in your system for longer.
Our body is weaker. You may have noticed it with that constant back pain but it actually happens internally too. That means it is harder to fight off a cold virus or other illnesses and, yes, a heavy night of drinking. Plus, most likely, you are taking some kind of medication or supplements. Some say that you should avoid drink altogether – but even those that don’t can make it harder for you body to shake off the excesses of a heavy night.
Your life is becoming more stressful. With more expenses each year, children to get to school and worries about how to pay the bills you’re much more susceptible to stress – prolonging your hangover even longer.
Or perhaps, you’re just not that into it anymore
As much you might want to stay up partying all night, neither your body or your brain can handle that kind of experience anymore.
In sum, this is not in your head! Your hangovers really, truly do get worse as you get older. Of course, you’re also wiser than your hard-drinking younger self. So when the bartender asks if you’ll have another, order a glass of water instead.