Summary: A new study reveals the effects of a night binge drinking may last a little longer than we think. Researchers report cognitive impairments, memory deficits and problems with psychomotor skills are still present the day after, when there is little to no alcohol left in the blood stream.
Source: University of Bath.
The effects of a heavy drinking session on our thoughts and performance may last longer we think, according to a new study.
The research, published in the journal Addiction from psychologists at the University of Bath, highlight that impairments in cognition seen when individuals are drunk are still present the day after, when there little to no alcohol left in the bloodstream.
Across the board, they highlight how hungover individuals have poorer attention, memory and psychomotor skills such as coordination and speed when compared to when sober.
The researchers suggest their findings have important implications when it comes to activities performed when hungover, including driving.
For example, while hungover, individuals might typically wait until they believe there is no alcohol in the system before driving. These new results suggest that we could still be impaired in terms of the cognitive processes required, even after alcohol has left the bloodstream. In addition, the researchers warn that although many workplaces have clear policies in place regarding alcohol intoxication at work, few cover the next day effects of alcohol.
For certain jobs, they suggest, employees should be aware of the real effects that hangovers can have, and employers might do well to consider revising guidelines on safety grounds.
Hangover is the most commonly-reported negative consequence of alcohol use, and is already estimated to cost the UK economy £1.9 billion a year due to absenteeism. Despite this, up until this point little has been done to examine the effects of being hungover ‘on the job’.
Leader author Craig Gunn of the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath explained: “In our review of 19 studies we found that hangover impaired psychomotor speed, short and long term memory and sustained attention. Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times the day after an evening of heavy drinking. Our review also indicated limited and inconsistent research on alcohol hangover and the need for future studies in the field.”
Senior author Dr Sally Adams added: “Our findings demonstrate that hangover can have serious consequences for the performance of everyday activities such as driving and workplace skills such as concentration and memory.
“These findings also highlight that there is a need for further research in this field where alcohol hangover has implications at the individual level in terms of health and wellbeing, but also more widely at the national level for safety and the economy.”
The researchers are now developing this work to further examine the true health and economic costs of hangover and associated risks with the next day effects of heavy drinking. The meta-analysis involved in this study involved a review of 770 articles relating to the topic.
Funding: University of Bath Research Studentship Award funded this study.
Source: Andy Dunne – University of Bath
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Original Research: Abstract for “A Systematic Review of the Next‐Day Effects of Heavy Alcohol Consumption on Cognitive Performance” by Craig Gunn, Marlou Mackus, Chris Griffin,, Marcus R. Munafò, and Sally Adams in Addiction. Published August 25 2018.
A Systematic Review of the Next‐Day Effects of Heavy Alcohol Consumption on Cognitive Performance
Background and aims
Studies examining the next‐day cognitive effects of heavy alcohol consumption have produced mixed findings, which may reflect inconsistencies in definitions of ‘hangover’. Recent consensus has defined hangover as “mental and physical symptoms, experienced the day after a single episode of heavy drinking, starting when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) approaches zero”. In light of this, we aimed to review the literature systematically to evaluate and estimate mean effect sizes of the next‐day effects of heavy alcohol consumption on cognition.
Embase, PubMed and PsycNET databases were searched between December 2016 and May 2018 using terms based on ‘alcohol’ and ‘hangover’. Studies of experimental design which reported the next‐day cognitive effects of heavy alcohol consumption in a ‘hangover’ group with BAC < 0.02% were reviewed. 770 articles were identified. 36 full‐text articles were screened by two independent reviewers and 19 included in the systematic review. 11 articles provided sufficient data to be included in the meta‐analysis. 1163 participants across 19 studies conducted since 1970 were included in the analysis. Data for study design, hangover severity, BAC at testing, and cognitive performance were extracted and effect estimates calculated.
The systematic review suggested that sustained attention, and driving abilities were impaired during hangover. Mixed results were observed for: psychomotor skills, short‐ and long‐term memory, and divided attention. The meta‐analysis revealed evidence of impairments in STM (g = 0.64, 95% CI 0.15 to 1.13), LTM (g = 0.59, 95% CI 0.01 to 1.17) sustained attention (g = 0.47, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.87), and psychomotor speed (g = 0.66, 95% CI 0.31 to 1.00) during alcohol hangover.
The research literature suggests that alcohol hangovers may involve impaired cognitive functions and performance of everyday tasks such as driving.