While it is no surprise that alcohol does horrible things to your body, it turns out that there is scientific evidence as to why abusing alcohol feels worse as you age. A pesky toxic metabolite from alcohol, acetaldehyde, hangs out in your system much longer without being broken down, contributing to that lousy feeling that just keeps on getting more lousy the older you get.
According to George Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “as you get older, the enzymes you use to metabolize alcohol don’t work as well.”
Generally, when people age they tend to put on weight as well. In science, this translates to a higher body fat percentage and a lower body-water ratio; which inevitably leads to a much higher blood alcohol content when you drink the same amount as your younger days.
Body fat percentage is also one of the reasons why women have a stronger response to alcohol as opposed to men. Even if a man and a woman drank the same amount of alcohol, the woman, or the person with the lower body fat percentage, would most likely have the higher blood alcohol content.
Koob further elaborates that, “the biggest effect probably has to do with what happens to your brain.”
In your early twenties, the brain has a highly developed reward system and an under-developed stress system. Somewhere around your mid-twenties, your prefrontal cortex finishes developing, and your body’s inability to handle alcohol skyrockets.
Koob states that the best solution towards dealing with a hangover is, “not to get one in the first place.”