It’s the one thing that makes you feel absolutely ancient – other than having the youngest person in the office stare at you blankly when you mention your favourite childhood TV show.
You drink the same amount of vodka and lime that you used to. You’re smart enough to alternate with glasses of water. You’ve had enough rest.
So why are you crying under your desk with the worst hangover of your life? Why does the morning after feel so much worse than it used to?
You’re not imagining things.
Your hangovers do get worse as you get older. And it’s all your body’s fault.
When you’re younger, your body easily breaks down alcohol in the liver, turning it into a compound called acetaldehyde. After that, an enzyme breaks that down into acetate, which then turns into carbon dioxide and water, effectively ‘washing out’ the alcohol from your body.
But as you get older, your levels of the enzymes required for this process decrease, meaning that acetaldehyde hangs out in the body for longer. This is a problem, because acetaldehyde is a toxic chemical, and the longer it’s in the body, the longer it’ll cause headaches, nausea, and general misery.
Add to that the fact that your body loses water with age – meaning any remaining alcohol in your body is more highly concentrated – and it’s pretty much like the liquids in your body as conspiring against you.
Body fat also comes into play.
We’re sorry to break this to you, but as you grow up, you’re likely to build up more body fat. It’s fine, it’s natural, but the downside is that fat can’t absorb alcohol, meaning that there’s less space in your body for the booze to diffuse and process.
Immunosenescence refers to the weakening of your immune system as you age. It’s a noted symptom of growing older, causing the healing process to move more slowly, whether it’s an injury, recovering from a tough workout, or a rotten hangover.
But it’s not all down to our bodies – although they do play a major part.
The Science of Us reminds us that our lives get tougher, too.
When you’re young, you’re usually able to deal with your hangover with a lie-in, McDonald’s, and gentle sobbing.
When you get older, you have to go to work, or deal with kids, or do other grownup, responsible things. That’ll make your hangover symptoms feel a lot worse.
Now, if all of this is making you despair at a future of ever-worsening hangovers, we get it. We feel you. But don’t stress out too much. No matter how bad they get, hangovers will always pass
Just drink lots of water, eat some proper food, and try to get some rest. At least now you have an excuse to be moaning about how awful you feel – and you can tell the young person in your office that you’re having a MUCH worse time.