Having a hangover does not influence when a drinker will have their next tipple, public health researchers have discovered.
Hangovers neither deter nor encourage more drinking, says the University of Missouri team.
The findings dispel the notion that people resort to having a “hair of the dog” to lessen their discomfort.
Likewise, few appear to delay their next drink despite their post-alcohol headache, sickness and dizziness.
The results, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, come from a study of 386 young adults – many of them US college students – who were asked to keep a diary over three weeks about their drinking.
Participants made a diary entry each morning, and they were asked to rate their likelihood of drinking later the same day. This yielded 2,276 drinking episodes and 463 hangover episodes for the researchers to analyse.
Overall, ratings made on hangover and non-hangover mornings did not differ.
Even when the drinkers were suffering acutely from the effects of a hangover, it didn’t seem to affect their conscious drinking intentions.
Surveys of college students have suggested that drinking to relieve hangovers has been tried by up to half of drinkers and that this behaviour is associated with heavier alcohol consumption. But the current study did not find this.
The researchers also point out that some diary entries were missing – possibly because the participants were sometimes too hung over to do it.
Researcher Thomas Piasecki said: “Our findings fill in a basic piece of the puzzle concerning hangovers and alcoholism.
“If hangovers don’t strongly discourage or punish drinking, links between current problem drinking and frequent hangover seem less incongruent. If hangovers don’t generally hasten drinking, we can rule out a direct causal role of hangovers in the acceleration of problem drinking.”
According to Alcohol Concern, around 200,000 people turn up at work every day with a hangover.
And up to 17 million sick days are taken each year in the UK because of alcohol.
There are no cures for a hangover, although making sure you rehydrate by drinking water may help. The best way to avoid one is to drink within recommended limits, which is no more than two or three units a day for women and three or four units a day for men.
If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, hangover or not, doctors advise that you wait 48 hours before drinking any more alcohol, in order to give your body tissues time to recover.