Predictors of Hangover in Heavy-Drinking Young Adults on Vacation

This study elucidates the predictors of hangover after heavy drinking in young adults. On three occasions, 112 young tourists were interviewed regarding their drinking habits and rest periods. It was seen that the incidence of hangover was high, at 68 percent, when high levels of alcohol were consumed. The severity of hangover was proportional to the amount drunk and hangovers were more pronounced toward the end of the week. Drinking prior to the vacation was not a predictor of hangover. Thus, hangovers are related to the amount of alcohol consumed as well as the period of the vacation.

Alcoholism lists as the ninth-most leading cause of mortality worldwide. One acute ill effect of alcohol consumption is a hangover. Nearly three of four people have had a hangover after a night of excessive drinking. A hangover occurs when blood alcohol levels return to zero, being characterized by headaches, tiredness and nausea. A study of the predictors of hangovers has to include people who drink large amounts of alcohol repeatedly over a period. Though a number of studies have been done on the effects of alcohol, not many have looked at alcohol hangovers. Additionally, earlier studies did not accurately assess the incidence of hangovers, owing to subjective interpretation by participants and ill-defined parameters of hangovers. This study was performed to assess the predictors and incidence of hangovers in young adults drinking heavily over the course of a week.

* Researchers interviewed 112 young adult tourists from Denmark, aged 15 to 25 years.
* They were asked to complete three different questionnaires on three consecutive days of their stay at a tourist resort. Questions included details on the frequency of drinking, blackouts, measures of drinks and hangovers.
* An acute hangover score was marked for each response to a question. The subjects were divided into light or heavy drinkers, based on the drinks they had consumed.

* Around 70 percent of the subjects had consumed more than six units of alcohol each time they had completed the questionnaire.
* Results showed that 68 percent of the subjects had a significant hangover on drinking 12 units of alcohol the previous night. However, a sizable 32 percent had no symptoms of hangover, even after 12 units of alcohol.
* The incidence of hangover and its symptoms increased over a week of heavy drinking.

The exact amount of alcohol consumed was not ascertained in this study. Relying on the self-reported data by the subjects was a major limitation in this study; the participants could have been intoxicated and unable to remember details. The sample size of the subjects was very limited in order to perform higher levels of statistical analyses. Future studies could include changes like blood pressure, body temperature, or hormonal levels with respect to alcohol content.

This study showed that the incidence of hangover was proportional to the amount of alcohol consumed. Also highlighted was the fact that a significant proportion do not experience hangover, whatever the alcohol intake. The effects of drinking became more pronounced with increase in alcohol consumption as the week progressed. Hangovers were reported in both men and women, making both equally susceptible to high alcohol content. This finding suggests that sex differences in alcohol consumption in previous studies could have been biased. More research, including more subjects and observations, could help estimate the threshold for major hangover symptoms and even help prevent them.

For More Information:
Predictors of Hangover during a Week of Heavy Drinking on Holiday
Publication Journal: Addiction, 2010
By Morten Hesse; Sébastien Tutenges; University of Aarhus, Copenhagen S, Denmark

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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