Aims: Scientific literature suggests a large number of symptoms that may be present the day after excessive alcohol consumption. The purpose of this study was to explore the presence and severity of hangover symptoms, and determine their interrelationship.
Methods: A survey was conducted among n = 1410 Dutch students examining their drinking behavior and latest alcohol hangover. The severity of 47 presumed hangover symptoms were scored on a 10-point scale ranging from 0 (absent) to 10 (maximal). Factor analysis was conducted to summarize the data into groups of associated symptoms that contribute significantly to the alcohol hangover and symptoms that do not.
Results: About half of the participants (56.1%, n = 791) reported having had a hangover during the past month. Most commonly reported and most severe hangover symptoms were fatigue (95.5%) and thirst (89.1%). Factor analysis revealed 11 factors that together account for 62% of variance. The most prominent factor 'drowsiness' (explained variance 28.8%) included symptoms such as drowsiness, fatigue, sleepiness and weakness. The second factor 'cognitive problems' (explained variance 5.9%) included symptoms such as reduced alertness, memory and concentration problems. Other factors, including the factor 'disturbed water balance' comprising frequently reported symptoms such as 'dry mouth' and 'thirst', contributed much less to the overall hangover (explained variance <5%).
Conclusion: Drowsiness and impaired cognitive functioning are the two dominant features of alcohol hangover.