Anatomy of a Hangover: Women Suffer More
Hangovers Could Be an Important Factor in the Development of Drinking Problems
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 15, 2003 -- Ladies, don't even try to go toe for toe with
a guy at the bar -- or you'll pay for it later.
Drink for drink, women are more likely to be hit with hangover
symptoms than men. That's just one of the findings of a new study that analyzes
the anatomy of a hangover -- symptom by symptom.
Yes, despite its ubiquity, researchers say the common hangover
has actually received little attention in scholarly research.
In order to rectify this glaring omission, researchers have now
designed a new hangover symptom scale to measure the physical and psychological
effects of hangovers and to measure susceptibility to them.
The scale rates the prevalence and severity of 13 different
hangover symptoms, such as dehydration, tiredness, headache, nausea, weakness,
difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and trouble sleeping.
"We were surprised to discover how little research has been
conducted on hangover because the research that does exist suggests that
hangover could be an important factor in the development of problem
drinking," says researcher Thomas Piasecki, PhD, of the University of
Missouri-Columbia, in a news release.
Defining a Hangover
To test the new hangover symptoms scale, researchers surveyed
1,230 college students about their drinking behavior and hangover symptoms over
the past year. The students also reported their history of alcohol use,
alcohol-related problems, and family history of alcohol-related problems.
The results are published in the September issue of
Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Researchers found that 26% of the students reported at least
one hangover symptom once a month or more. The most commonly reported hangover
symptom was feeling extremely thirsty/dehydrated, and the least common was
The study showed that only three hangover symptoms were
experienced by more than half of college drinkers in the past year:
- Feeling extremely thirsty/dehydrated
- Feeling more tired than usual
Researchers say that these three hangover symptoms may
represent low-threshold responses to alcohol indulgence, and other hangover
symptoms may require a larger dose of alcohol to emerge.
Some Suffer More Than Others
The study also showed that women were harder hit by hangover
symptoms, even after accounting for differences in the amount of alcohol
Researchers say that makes biological sense since women tend to
weigh less than men and their bodies contain less water, which increases the
risk of intoxication and subsequent hangovers.
In addition, students who had personally experienced
alcohol-related problems or had a parent with a history of alcohol-related
problems were more likely to report hangover symptoms after drinking.