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

Hangovers: Effectively Measuring Your Pain


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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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