Why hangovers get worse as you age

Sarah Carty
Senior Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

If you’re suffering on Monday morning from a wild drinking session you had on Saturday night, there might be a pretty simple explanation for that.

Back in your 20’s, you might have stayed out until 4am and got back on the booze the next day without as much as a ripple of a headache, but in your 30’s the mere thought of drink is enough to turn your stomach after one night out.

So why can’t we handle our alcohol as much as we used to and why are our hangovers just getting worse with age?

Do you feel your hangovers getting worse with age? Well it turns out there’s a scientific reason for that. Photo: Getty Images

Well it’s all down to age unfortunately, and the effects alcohol has on your system.

“As you get older, because of changes in body water, the same amount of alcohol results in a higher blood alcohol level,” Professor Steve Allsop, from the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University, told Coach.

“A key to how severe your hangover is, is what blood alcohol level you reached. That’s why the more alcohol you drink, the worse you feel.

“I’m an old man, so if I drank four glasses of wine now, my blood alcohol level would be higher than it would have been when I was 35.”

Your blood alcohol level isn’t the only factor that contributes to your hangover.

Experts believe it could also be to do with your body composition, and the fact that most people gain weight and lose muscle mass the older they get.


According to reports, alcohol is absorbed more quickly by water-rich muscle mass, so the less muscle you have, the more likely the alcohol will linger in your system.

It’s also believed that a person’s tolerance to alcohol wavers as they get older and aren’t partying as much.

“Age may be a proxy for regularity of drinking,” Dr. Lara Ray, a professor of clinical psychology at UCLA who researches alcoholism, told the New York Times.

“If you haven’t gone to a party for two to three weeks, it might be less about being 40 and more about your drinking history.”


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