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Hangovers: Effectively Measuring Your Pain | NEWS-Line for Healthcare Professionals

Hangovers: Effectively Measuring Your Pain


Many young adults know firsthand that alcohol hangovers are unpleasant. However, few psychometrically sound instruments (tests that accurately measure personality, mental ability, opinions, etc.) have measured hangovers beyond the college-age years. This study investigated the psychometric properties of two interconnected scales – the Hangover Symptom Scale (HSS) and the Hangover Symptom Scale – Short Form (HSS-5) – among a) light and heavy drinkers, b) individuals with a positive or negative family history of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), and c) men and women in a post college-aged sample.

Researchers examined 294 light (n=86) and heavy (n=208) social drinkers (170 men, 124 women) ages 21 to 35 years who were enrolled in the Chicago Social Drinking Project (CSDP). Participants completed the full 13-item HSS, which contained the five items of the shorter HSS-5, as part of the larger CSDP. The psychometric properties of the 13-item HSS and five-item HSS-5 were examined, as were their association with alcohol-related problems.

Both versions of the HSS were found to be reliable and valid measures of hangover symptoms experienced in the past year. However, only the shorter HSS-5 showed construct validity (i.e., its component items of headache, tiredness, nausea, difficulty concentrating, and weakness measured well the construct of hangover, rather than just being a list of its symptoms) across a variety of subgroups including a) both men and women, b) light and heavy drinkers, and c) drinkers with a positive or negative family history of AUD. The authors recommended the use of the HSS-5 as a reliable and valid brief measure of hangover symptoms among post-college aged young adults. (Editor’s note: This study should aid in subsequent hangover studies that are aimed at finding the causes and clinical importance of hangovers in alcohol consumers.)

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