So why do my hangovers feel worse every year?
One popular explanation as to why hangovers get worse as you move into your late 20s and 30s is that you lose some of the enzymes required to break down alcohol from acetaldehyde to nontoxic acetate. But according to Dr. Rohsenow, acetaldehyde "is probably not one of the chemicals that affects hangover itself, because the maximum hangover intensity occurs after all acetaldehyde is gone from the blood and acetaldehyde levels do not correlate well with hangover." She's not the only one to note acetaldehyde's dubious role in hangovers.
So the articles that rely on acetaldehyde to explain changes in recovery time after a boozy night are, at best, incomplete. And yet, the office hangover of your 30s is so, so much more crushing than the still-living-with-parents hangover of a 22-year-old.
Am I actually getting more mature?
Dr. Rohsenow's research suggests that adults between the ages of 25 and 34 actually experience reduced hangover symptoms compared to people aged 15 to 24. What's more, she says, "The age differences were not due to differences in level of habitual drinking or weight or alcohol dependence, all of which could change with age. Another study... found that the relationship of amount of alcohol consumed and hangover got less as drinkers got older."
Basically, this evidence suggests that you actually get better at drinking as you move into your late-20s and early-to-mid-30s. When you find yourself struggling miserably through a Friday after having just one more post-midnight drink at the bar, it's because it's tough to be an active, attentive human being early in the morning after alcohol consumption, regardless of age.