It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 55, the persistent pounding of a next-day hangover is a brutal experience we wouldn’t wish upon our worst enemy.
However, age can influence how bad that hangover might be – and, according to a 2013 survey from UK group Redemption, that sweet spot comes around at 29. It's worth mentioning that Redemption owns and promotes booze-free bars so might not be the most biased-free source.
Understanding why we get hungover is as hazy as our brains the next morning, and scientists say the wretched feeling is the consequence of a number of actions.
Scientists do have one solid theory. As it gets older, the human body simply doesn’t work as well as it used to.
Regular alcohol consumption peaks around age 25, right about the time we trade in late-night college beer pong tournaments for grown-up jobs. As we inch closer to our thirties, tolerance begins to decrease because we are simply drinking less – a few days off of booze resets the alcohol tolerance right back to normal. Less drinking equals less tolerance, plain and simple.
With age, our bodies also get worse at tolerating things. Pair that with the fact that as people age, they're more likely to be on medications that interact with alcohol.
It comes down to the way alcohol is processed in our bodies and what we’re drinking. About 25 percent of it is absorbed straight from the stomach and into the bloodstream, the rest is absorbed from the small intestine. Drinks with a higher alcohol concentration and carbonated drinks (champagne) are generally absorbed faster, especially on an empty stomach. Your liver (which also starts to slow down with age) processes about 90 to 98 percent of alcohol and the other 2 to 10 percent is removed through urine, breathed out through the lungs or leaves the body in sweat.
As we age, our metabolism slows down and body fat increases. People with higher body fat percentages have less dehydrogenase – the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach – resulting in a higher blood alcohol concentration and lower tolerance. Women carry up to 10 percent more body fat than men, and body fat percentages increase with age in both sexes – bad news for hangovers.
The three-day hangover is real, and if that wasn’t enough of a buzzkill, scientists can’t figure out how to cure a hangover either.
If you’ve called in sick to work for your hangover you’re not alone: estimates of lost revenue due to productivity or absenteeism put the tally at $148 billion a year in the US alone.
We hate to be the bashers of hope, but there's only one way to get over a hangover: don’t get one in the first place. Scientists say abstinence and moderation are the only ways to prevent the persistent head-pounding we’ve all experienced after a night of drinking the sauce.