You’ll never believe how much money your hangovers are costing the economy

When one chooses to indulge in a night of drinking, they can usually expect to feel a special kind of awful the following morning. Hangovers are no fun, that’s for sure, but beyond 12 hours or so of suffering they’re largely harmless right? Well, according to a new study just released by the University of Bath, hangovers are anything but harmless from both an economic and personal perspective.

Hangovers seriously impair a person’s ability to make decisions, plan, and set goals. While that may not sound like that big of a deal on a lazy Sunday, hangovers wreak havoc on employee productivity Monday through Friday.

The research team behind this study estimate that each year the UK economy loses 1.4 billion pounds due to hangovers! That’s over $1.7 billion US dollars. This research was conducted overseas, but it’s fairly safe to say that there is, in all probability, a similar relationship at play between US hangovers and economics.

While the financial impact of hangovers was discovered last year, this newest study clarified those findings by gathering a group of participants and documenting exactly how a hangover can hamper a person’s ability to function. 

In all, 35 18-30-year-olds took part in this research. Each person had reported dealing with a hangover at least once over the past month. Participants were asked to complete a series of activities two times, once after not drinking at all, and then again while feeling hungover. These tasks measured a variety of abilities, including switching attention between problems, processing information from multiple sources, and planning actions. 

The ensuing results clearly illustrated that when a person is hungover they’re short term memory doesn’t work as well. Also, hangovers make it more difficult to focus on a task or switch one’s attention. These executive functions are of no small importance. Making decisions, planning things out, and setting goals are key aspects of virtually any job. 

“We know that hangovers can have a big economic cost, but we did not know how hangovers affect our ability to switch attention from one task to another, update information in our mind, and maintain focus on set goals. Our study asked participants to complete tasks measuring these processes when they had a hangover and again when they had not consumed alcohol. The results suggest that all of these processes are impaired by a hangover, which could have consequences for other aspects of our lives.” explains lead author Craig Gunn, of Bath’s Department of Psychology, in a university release. 

These revelations would be noteworthy at any point in time, but they feel especially relevant given the current lockdown we all find ourselves in. It’s perhaps never been easier, or more tempting, to hit the bottle more often as one sits and works from home. 

“Anecdotally, we may experience reduced performance of daily tasks when we are hungover such as planning activities and dividing our attention between several tasks. Our data show that this impairment is likely the result of reduced capability in several core executive functions, which are important for tasks such as workplace performance and driving,” concludes Dr. Sally Adams from the Addiction & Mental Health Group at the University of Bath, the study’s senior author.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid alcohol, from its harmful effects on one’s health to its knack for causing stupid decisions. That being said, if you’re trying to maintain a certain level of productivity during this pandemic, these findings are yet another excuse to stay away from beer and liquor. You won’t be able to get any meaningful work done, whether it be personal or professional, the next day while hungover.

On the other hand, maybe you’re more of a dollars and cents type of person. In that case, the next time you feel like drinking more than a few beers, think of the economy!

The full study can be found here, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.