Fast-forward 20 years—fine, 25—and a third glass of wine at dinner one night leaves me feeling headachy and bitchy the next morning. Sometimes for the entire next day. Turns out, it’s not because my drinking has reached Kim Richards levels of crazy, but because alcohol actually hits your body harder as you get older. The irony being, of course, that this is when we need it the most.
“All of the effects of alcohol are sort of amplified with age,” David W. Oslin, a professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told The Wall Street Journal. “Withdrawal is a little bit more complicated. Hangovers are a little bit more complicated.”
So why does this happen? Let’s let science explain it (yeah, science!). According to the WSJ, our liver takes longer to do its job now that we’re older because it gets bigger and less efficient as we age. And since a hangover is set in motion when you drink more alcohol than your liver can metabolize, the longer it takes your bod to break down the booze, the longer you’ll feel like crap.
Changes in body composition also come into play. As we get older, our bodies trade in their awesome alcohol-absorbing muscle for fat. They also contain way less water, which makes dehydration—which is what’s causing that pounding headache—pretty much a foregone conclusion. Fun times! Oh, and don’t forget that alcohol inhibits our sleep as we age, and that the various meds we might be taking to combat things like high cholesterol, low blood pressure or heartburn can also negatively affect alcohol’s impact on the body.
It’s fun getting older, isn’t it? Cheers!