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With hangovers, gender matters

Special to The Times

When a woman tries to keep up with a man -- drink for drink -- she’s more likely to become intoxicated, and now a University of Missouri-Columbia study has found she’s also more likely to have a hangover.

“We don’t know yet why ... but it may be due to differences between men and women, on average, in body weight, percentage of body water and fat,” says lead author Wendy Slutske, associate professor of psychology.

Whether women’s hangovers are more severe has not yet been determined. “This is definitely something we’d like to follow up,” Slutske says. She and her colleague Thomas M. Piasecki, assistant professor of psychology, did find that men’s hangover symptoms were more likely than women’s to include vomiting and excessive sweating.

The researchers discovered these gender differences while evaluating a new hangover symptoms scale designed to accurately measure physical and psychological symptoms. The lack of such a scale has been a stumbling block in scientific research on the effects of alcohol. Until now, most research has been based on broad subjective surveys in which people were asked questions such as, “How many times have you experienced a hangover in the past year?” Although still somewhat subjective, the Hangover Symptoms Scale is far more thorough and specific than measures used in the past, touching on 13 symptoms experienced the morning after.

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In their study of 1,230 college students, the researchers found that the most common hangover symptoms were feeling extremely thirsty or dehydrated, feeling more tired than usual, headache, nausea and vomiting.

The study was published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.


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