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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September, 2003, 00:47 GMT 01:47 UK
Women 'suffer worse hangovers'
Generic woman with headache
Women displayed much greater susceptibility to 13 key hangover symptoms
Women may have just been given carte blanche to complain after a night on the tiles, as scientists in America have decided that women suffer from worse hangovers than men.

According to a new study, carried out by the University of Missouri-Columbia, even taking account of differences in the amount of alcohol consumed, hangovers hit women much harder than their male counterparts.

The research subjects were a group notorious for their use of alcohol - 1,230 drinking undergraduate students - although with the test being conducted in America, 95% of them were actually too young to legally drink.

Women tend to weigh less and have lower percentages of total body water than men do, so they should achieve higher degrees of intoxication and, presumably, more hangover per unit of alcohol
Dr Wendy Slutske
After excessive drinking, the students were asked to grade how acutely they were experiencing 13 key symptoms - including headache, vomiting or fatigue.

''This finding makes biological sense, because women tend to weigh less and have lower percentages of total body water than men do, so they should achieve higher degrees of intoxication and, presumably, more hangover per unit of alcohol,'' said Wendy Slutske, an associate professor of psychology who led the research.

When the results of the study, supported by the National Institute of Health, were collated it was discovered that women tended to suffer much worse effects than men.

Getting the shakes

Under the new hangover scale the students on average suffered five out of the 13 symptoms.

The most common of the symptoms reported - which ranged from headaches and nausea, to being unable to concentrate - was dehydration.

The least frequently experienced symptom was trembling or shaking.

Medically speaking, it is dehydration that is responsible for most of the nasty effects.

Eat a good fatty meal
Drink a glass of milk
Alternate water or non-fizzy drinks with alcoholic ones
Avoid fizzy drinks
Drink alcohol in moderation not excess
Before going to bed drink lots of water
Take vitamin C
Eat toast or get some fresh air
Alcohol is a diuretic, and speeds up the loss of water from the body - causing parched-mouth thirst, headaches, and that feeling of continual dizziness that leads so many sufferers to wheel out the age old vow: "Never again."

Nausea, vomiting, and indigestion are caused by the direct action of alcohol irritating the stomach lining.

Twenty-six percent of the students admitted to suffering hangovers at least once a month or more frequently.

"It would be instructive to determine whether these individuals are at especially high risk of academic failure or whether members of Greek organisations are over-represented among this group," the researchers said, referring to the fraternities and sororities popular at American universities.

Inherited factors

But on average the students suffered at least one of the 13 symptoms between three and 11 times in the last year.

"Thus, while hangover is a common phenomenon among college drinkers, for most of them it occurs rarely enough that it is unlikely to have a major deleterious impact on academic performance," Dr Slutske said.

Dr Thomas Piasecki, a psychologist from the research team said the group were surprised how little study into the effects of hangovers had been conducted:

"Because the research that does exist suggests that hangovers could be an important factor in the development of problem drinking."

The study found that as well as women being particularly susceptible to the debilitating effects of alcohol, students who reported having alcohol-related problems or one or more biological parents with a history of alcohol-related problems suffered the worst hangovers.

Lesley King-Lewis, chief executive of Action on Addiction, said: "Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol in many ways.

"Women have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, the enzyme that digests alcohol in the stomach.

"This in combination with a smaller stature and lower body water content, means that women get drunk faster and stay drunk longer, which increases the health risks associated with alcohol."

Hangover tops sickie list
27 May 03  |  UK


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