COLUMBIA, Mo. (UPI) — Many people think a brutal hangover helps prevent another night of excess drinking but U.S. researchers find hangovers have little impact on subsequent behavior.
Professors Thomas M. Piasecki of the University of Missouri and Damaris J. Rohsenow of Brown University School of Public Health said some believe hangovers might delay subsequent drinking through pain and discomfort or hasten drinking to relieve hangover symptoms, known as “the hair of the dog.”
However, their study, scheduled to be published in May’s Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, but available online at Early View, found the influence of a hangover was minimal.
Rohsenow said people who drink heavily generally experience pleasurable effects while drinking and that is what drives the decision to drink heavily again. The pain of a hangover is temporary and may be considered a nuisance rather than an important negative consequence. Some studies show younger drinkers do not consider hangovers a negative experience and many drinkers are willing to experience hangovers time after time.
The researchers recruited 386 — 196 men, 190 women — frequent drinkers, oversampling for current smokers, to carry electronic diaries for 21 days while reporting on drinking behaviors and other experiences.
Analysis was performed on data culled from 2,276 drinking episodes, including 463 episodes that were followed by self-reported hangovers in the diaries.
“Our main finding is that hangovers appear to have a very modest effect on subsequent drinking,” Piasecki said in a statement. “On average, the time between drinking episodes was extended by only a few hours after a hangover. We looked to see whether there were particular subgroups of drinkers who might show distinctive patterns like ‘hair of the dog’ use but we didn’t find clear evidence for that.”
Participants made a diary entry each morning, and they were asked to rate their likelihood of drinking later the same day.
“It was striking that ratings made on hangover and non-hangover mornings did not differ. Even when the drinkers were acutely suffering a hangover, it didn’t seem to affect their conscious drinking intentions,” Piasecki said. “No doubt this reflects the fact that drinking behavior is determined by a host of factors, like day of the week, opportunity, and social plans.”