Hangovers have 'serious consequences' for driving and working, study finds

'Impaired performance in these abilities reflects poorer concentration and focus, decreased memory and reduced reaction times the day after an evening of heavy drinking,' researchers suggest

Mattha Busby
Saturday 25 August 2018 16:07 BST
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Many workplaces have clear policies in place regarding alcohol intoxication at work, few cover the next-day effects of alcohol
Many workplaces have clear policies in place regarding alcohol intoxication at work, few cover the next-day effects of alcohol

The effects of an alcohol-fuelled bank holiday could last longer than might be anticipated due to cognitive impairments that stretch into the next day, a new study suggests.

Psychologists at the University of Bath found hungover people had poorer attention, memory and psychomotor skills such as coordination and speed, even with little to no alcohol left in their bloodstreams.

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 drivers 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.

Employees in certain jobs should be aware of the real effects that hangovers can have, and employers might do well to consider revising guidelines on safety grounds, the researchers recommend.

The hangover is the most commonly reported negative consequence of alcohol use and is already estimated to cost the UK economy £1.9bn a year due to absenteeism.

However, in spite of the impact hangovers can have on the wider economy, little has been done to examine the effects of being hungover "on the job" until now.

"In our review of 19 studies we found that hangover impaired psychomotor speed, short and long-term memory and sustained attention,” lead author Craig Gunn said.

"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," he added, describing the findings from the study’s meta-analysis which involved a review of 770 relevant articles.

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.

Dr Sally Adams, senior author, 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."

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