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Why do hangovers get worse with age?

Woman with hangover in bed
It’s not news to anybody that as you age, your hangovers get worse. The morning after the night before in your 20s may have been an early brunch to debrief, but now it’s a slow grind in the hopes your head will stop hurting.

Although there is plenty of evidence showing that hangovers do truly get worse with age, there is very little concrete science as to why. One explanation is as you age, you tend to drink less than your younger self, and therefore your body just isn’t as used to processing alcohol as it used to be.

Why are they getting worse?

Your body can’t process things like it used to

In an interview with the Telegraph Dr Chris van Tulleken talks about our depreciating ability to recover: “Your body deals with all systemic insults less and less effectively once you're north of 25, so it doesn't matter if it's a car crash, a severe infection or a night on the town, you'll take longer to recover."

You’re on medication

With your body becoming less likely to be able to process injury and ailments, you are more likely to be on more medication when you get older. These tablets often should not be mixed with alcohol, so the side effects of doing so is usually enough to ensure a headache in the morning.

You’ve put on weight

However much we want to deny it, most people put on weight as they age. Fat can’t absorb alcohol, and generally the more body fat you have the lower your alcohol tolerance. This is why women, who generally have more body fat than men, are deemed to have lower tolerances.  

You are dehydrated

As we age our body water content decreases. Not only does this mean we should stick to our eight glasses of water a day to keep hydrated, it also means alcohol remains more concentrated in your system for longer. Sally Stanner recommended rehydrating between your alcoholic drinks to a Telegraph reader:
“Many of the symptoms of drinking too much alcohol, such as headaches and nausea, are caused by dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. So to reduce the risk of getting a hangover, drink plenty of fluids before you start drinking alcohol, and continue to drink water or juice between each alcoholic drink to keep you hydrated and slow down your alcohol consumption.”

You are stressed

Although we all try to relax with a spa weekend in Yorkshire, sometimes life gets in the way. Alcohol expert Aaron White, Ph. D told Buzzfeed: "When the alcohol wears off, the euphoria is over and the parts of your brain that were off become more active so you feel way more anxious and depressed until everything returns to normal."

You may just not be into it

As much as sometimes it’s great to let loose and stay up all night, your schedule may just not allow for it and the hangover you feel might also be the regret of losing time. Tullken explained to the Telegraph: “All things become less joyful as we age for neurological reasons but, as our lives get more complex, losing a couple of days to a bender creates a lot more self-loathing when you have bills to pay than it did when you simply missed a couple of lectures at university."

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