Have you ever wondered why hangovers get worse with age? It’s a reasonable question and one that has several contributing factors. These factors include genetics, gender, hormones, glucose levels, dehydration, nutrition, and metabolism. The severity of hangovers can also be influenced by other things as well, such as stress, what and how much you eat while drinking, and interaction with prescription medications and supplements.
A Better Question — Why am I asking about Hangovers?
You’re probably wondering about hangovers because you get them far more often than you used to. Whether you’re young or old, frequent hangovers are a sign that you are drinking too much. And drinking too much may be a sign of alcoholism, such as:
- Losing interest in things you used to love,
- Rearranging your day to allow you to drink more often,
- Drinking in binges, consistently or heavily,
- Finding that you can’t stop drinking or control how much alcohol you drink.
If these are true for you, then you might need help, like the kind we offer at Carus Recovery.
In a study published on ScienceDirect.com, it was determined that approximately 75% of people who drink to the point of intoxication experience hangovers. In addition to the causes listed above, several psychological factors were found to also contribute to the severity of a hangover. These include:
- Guilt about drinking
- Being angry or depressed when high/drunk
- Negative life events
The reasons for why hangovers get worse with age are very complex.
How The Liver Processes Alcohol
Before getting into the causes of hangovers, let’s take a quick look at how the liver processes alcohol. Another good question here is, why is the human body prepared to process alcohol in the first place? The body naturally produces tiny quantities of ethanol, which is processed by the liver and eliminated from the body.
According to an article on GlobalNews.ca, alcohol is broken down by the liver via a two-step process as described below:
“First, liver enzymes break it down into acetaldehyde (a toxic substance), and then another enzyme breaks it down into acetate (a non-toxic substance), which then exits the body as carbon dioxide and water.”
The approximate rate of alcohol metabolism by a healthy liver is one drink per hour. This equates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of spirits. These volumes are estimates, and the quantity the liver can process changes regularly.
But, what causes a hangover? The science here indicates that because the liver cannot process all the alcohol consumed in a bout of drinking, it cannot convert the acetaldehyde to acetate as quickly. This toxin stays in the bloodstream longer and is a potential hangover cause.
Body Changes Are A Big Part of Why Hangovers Get Worse With Age
The changes our bodies go through as we get older have a direct impact on how alcohol affects us, both in terms of the speed of intoxication and how bad our hangovers are.
First Up – Metabolism
As we grow older, our metabolism slows down. Slower metabolism rates reduce the rate at which alcohol is processed by the liver and otherwise consumed or metabolized by the body. Slower metabolism rates mean a higher chance for a hangover because the alcohol stays in our bodies longer. More alcohol over extended periods of time equals more severe hangovers.
Body Mass Changes
Another common effect of aging is the loss of muscle. Younger people tend to have a higher percentage of muscle mass. Lean muscle helps process alcohol, whereas fat stores it. Because the fat cells store alcohol rather than help process it, the alcohol stays in the body longer. Sense a trend here? A number of things cause our bodies to retain alcohol longer, leading to worse hangovers.
Mixing Alcohol And Prescription Drugs
Mixing alcohol with prescription drugs is another reason why hangovers get worse with age. An inescapable fact of life is that we can develop problems as we grow older and may require medication to address the problem(s). Depending on the drug prescribed, the interaction can be severe, even fatal in specific circumstances. Fortunately, prescription drugs will indicate any potential risks if taken with alcohol, so it is important to be cautious if you are using prescription medications and having a drink or two. You need to be aware of the potential issues that can occur.
Hangovers Can Be An Indicator Of A Deeper Problem
While understanding why hangovers get worse with age is useful and informative, the most common cause of all hangovers is drinking to excess. Frequent hangovers can be an indication of an existing or developing addiction to alcohol. The reasons people drink on the way to addiction are as varied and complex as the causes behind why hangovers get worse with age.
If you or a loved one are experiencing frequent hangovers, it could be a sign of a deeper problem. Carus Recovery Center is the premier residential treatment and recovery provider in Southern California. Our highly trained staff and innovative programs and therapies can help fight alcohol addiction from early attention to detox to recovery. Please contact us or call 877-225-7724 today so we can discuss your concerns and start you on the road to recovery.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used in place of professional assistance.