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Health and happiness

Why Do Hangovers Get Worse As We Get Older?

By Laura May 12, 2016

Hangovers are getting worse. So much worse. I speak from the experience of a person who spent the best part of the week careering from pub to bar to club to pub as a student, but still managed to attend lectures/turn up to my weekend job without feeling like my brain was melting out of my ears. 

Nowadays a few too many drinks on a Saturday can leave me still feeling pretty ropey on a Tuesday and in inexplicable pain on a Sunday, but why? Surely ,if anything, my tolerance to alcohol should have increased so my hangovers should have got easier to cope with - right?


Most of us will find that as the years roll on, so does the length and severity of our hangovers, and it's all down to our metabolism. When we're young, foot loose and fancy-free our bodies can bounce back from a lot of the nasty stuff we put it through. But as we get older and our metabolism decreases, our liver has a lot harder job removing the toxins from our body that are caused by alcohol. Our slowing metabolism can also contribute to why we may find it harder to shift weight as we get older. 

The science behind why the morning after the night before gets tougher as we get older is all a bit murky. Researcher Young Chul Kim has conducted several experiments on ageing rats to try and find out exactly why the process of breaking down alcohol gets harder as we get older. 

He says:

 “Many factors appear to be involved in worsening of hangover in old age. One is that the liver capacity to cope with the toxicity of acetaldehyde decreases as we get old. Acetaldehyde is directly detoxified in the liver by an antioxidant called glutathione. Our data indicated that, as age increases, glutathione generation capacity is decreased, so cells may not be recovered or repaired rapidly.”

Another less scientific reason for why this might be happening is due to our changing size and weight as we get older. This can work in both ways, if we gain weight as we get older we might find it takes us a few more beverages to feel the effect of alcohol (as our blood alcohol levels decrease due to the blood having further to travel) or if we lose weight then we might misjudge the amount of alcohol that effects us. 

Our advice? Know your limits and be aware that your body can only metabolise one alcoholic drink per hour, so stick to that. Find yourself drinking quicker than that? Then make sure you match every alcoholic drink with a glass of water to try and limit the damage. Most importantly - fight to keep your metabolism working well! Do everything you can such as exercising regularly and eating well to stop things slowing down. Is all this advice too late for you? Then check out our top tips on getting rid of a hangover


Written by Laura

After 3 years of excess at uni took a serious toll on my waistline and wellbeing, I found that a love for strength training, HIIT and spin classes were key to keeping me healthy and happy. I'm at the forefront of finding out and creating awesome stuff about health, fitness and happiness and when I'm not at work I love nothing more than pizza and prosecco in the sun with friends. What motivates me? Knowing that life is short...


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