Bad hangovers? Why genetics, personality and coping mechanisms can make a difference

After a good night out, you might not be surprised when you wake up feeling sick the next morning. But what may surprise you is that your friends don’t feel the same way. Some may feel worse, some better, and some (if they’re lucky) may not feel any of the negative consequences at all.

This is the variability of a hangover. In research, hangovers are measured on an 11-point scale (zero with no effect and 10 with an extreme hangover). In my own research, participants reported hangovers on this scale between one (very mild) and eight (severe), while other research has estimated that around 5% of people may be hangover resistant.

So why the difference? There is more than just how much we drink. Researchers are now beginning to explore the many biological and psychological mechanisms that could influence our hangover experience.

Biological mechanisms

Some research suggests that people with a gene variation ALDH2 report experiencing more severe hangovers.

When we consume alcohol, the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase breaks it down into acetaldehyde, an important protein for the body. hangover occurrence symptom. However, the ALDH2 gene variant limits the breakdown of acetaldehyde, leading to increased buildup of the protein and thus increased hangover symptoms.

age and sex it can also influence the way a hangover is experienced. A recent online survey of 761 Dutch alcohol consumers found that hangover severity decreases with age, even when adjusted for the amount of alcohol consumed. Interestingly, the authors also reported differences in hangover severity between men and women. These sex differences were greater in younger drinkers, with young men (ages 18 to 25) tending to report more severe hangovers compared to younger female drinkers. However, it is currently not known why these differences exist.

Psychological factors

Certain psychological traits may be linked to how a hangover is experienced, including anxiety, depression, stress levels, and even personality.

Previously, research suggested that neuroticism, a broad personality trait that tends to cause people to view the world negatively, may predict the severity of a hangover. However, this idea has recently been challenged with another study that found no link between hangover and personality.

This is somewhat surprising, given that extroversion (a personality trait generally characterized by being outgoing and extroverted) is positively associated with binge drinking behaviors in college students, although it does not seem to be related to worse hangovers. This is despite evidence that more frequent binge drinking is linked to more severe hangover experiences.

A young man with a hangover sits on the bed with a glass of water.  A hand holds his head in pain.
Certain conditions are linked to more severe hangovers.

Anxiety, depression and stress they are also linked to more severe hangovers. Each of these moods is associated with a “negative bias,” a tendency to interpret the world more negatively. our findings Showing hangovers also tends to make people interpret the world more negatively. As a result, hangovers can exacerbate this negative bias, making some people feel worse than others.

Copy mechanisms

It is possible that the way we face adverse situations is the basis of the variation in hangover experiences.

Pain catastrophizing refers to the extent to which a person emphasizes the negative experience of pain. Research shows that people with high pain scores catastrophize report more severe hangovers – suggesting that they are focusing on your negative symptoms and possibly amplifying them. Other studies have also shown that people who tend to deal with their problems by ignoring or denying them tend to experience worst hangovers.

Emotion regulation is another key psychological mechanism that helps us deal with difficult situations by effectively managing and responding to emotional experiences. Interestingly, although people who are hungover report feeling that it is more difficult regulate your emotions, this may not actually be the case: Research shows that participants are just as capable of controlling their emotional response compared to those who were not hungover. This could mean that people choose easier (but less effective) regulatory strategies during a hangover, such as avoiding feelings of guilt or shame. But this is yet to be determined.

What can we do?

Although researchers may have identified some natural compounds that can alleviate general hangover symptoms, more research is still needed to determine if they should be recommended for treatment. Meanwhile, the best strategy for relieve your hangover It’s going to be up to you to determine.

But a study suggests a strategy commonly used by students to cope with the misery of a hangover: “suffer” together and joining your experiences – can be useful in helping to alleviate at least some of the negative emotional effects of a hangover. Taking care of your own personal well-being more generally and finding better strategies to reduce stress levels and adopt better coping mechanisms can also help you deal with the negative consequences of a hangover.

Although, of course, if you really want to avoid a hangover, you can always choose non-alcoholic alternatives.

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