A new study has found what the majority of frequent drinkers already know: a bad hangover has minimal influence over future drinking behaviour. Instead, most people tend to focus on the pleasurable memory of being drunk rather than the debilitating after-effects when contemplating their next drink. Well, duh.
Drunk socialite picture from Shutterstock
A new study published in the latest issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has found that hangovers have little influence on the time it takes to partake in a future drink — and may even play a direct role in the escalation of problematic drinking.
Researchers recruited 386 frequent drinkers spread evenly across both genders and tasked them with reporting on their drinking behaviors over 21 days. In all, 2,276 drinking episodes and 463 hangovers were recorded over the course of the study.
"Our main finding is that hangovers appear to have a very modest effect on subsequent drinking," said chief researcher authour Thomas M. Piasecki. "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. 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."
According to Piasecki, the subjects who suffered the most debilitating hangovers also experienced more pleasure from drinking the night before, which tended to drive their drinking decisions more than the memory of an unpleasant hangover.
The report concludes that for the majority of frequent drinkers, hangovers have a modest or inconsistent inﬂuence on the timing of subsequent alcohol use.
"The message here for clinicians is that it is probably a waste of time to discuss hangovers when trying to motivate a problem drinker to drink less or drink less often," Rohsenow said. "Drinkers do not seem to be bothered that much by the temporary discomfort of a hangover, since it does not get them to delay their drinking in any meaningful way."
With that said, experiencing frequent hangovers is usually a good warning sign that you're becoming a heavy drinker and should probably tone it down a little.
Does Hangover Influence the Time to Next Drink? An Investigation Using Ecological Momentary Assessment [Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research]