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America's Hangover

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Stomach-churning nausea, shaky hands, a pounding headache and cotton-dry mouth – there’s nothing quite like waking up to a hangover to make you wish you’d stuck to soda or stopped after one drink. All you can do is go back to bed or try your go-to remedy – maybe a greasy breakfast, a cup of strong coffee, or an ice-cold cocktail – and hope you feel better soon.

To find out more about hangovers around the world, we turned to Instagram and performed an exclusive text analysis of geotagged posts with relevant hashtags: #hangover, #hungover, #stilldrunk, #hairofthedog, #hangoverface, and #hangovercure. Which American states and international cities post the most about hangovers on Instagram? What do they say? When do people usually share these hangover snapshots? And what are their favorite remedies? Check out our eye-opening findings below.

Let’s Talk Hangovers

Hangovers (or veisalgia, as scientists call them) are the result of consuming ethanol, which is found in wine, beer, and spirits. Drink too much ethanol (aka alcohol), and you can experience plenty of discomfort: dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, sleep disturbances, stomach irritation, dilation of blood vessels, and disruption to cardiovascular and endocrine systems, among other symptoms. Also, as the liver metabolizes alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde: a toxic compound that can cause headaches and vomiting.

Many #hangover-related Instagram posts featured words with positive connotations, however: love and fun, parties and weekends, friends, music, travel, and the sun. Many drinkers also named the culprit beverage – the word “beer” was mentioned most in these posts. Why? You could chalk it up to popularity. Among Americans who report drinking alcohol, 43 percent prefer beer. Other frequently mentioned drinks included wine – favored by 32 percent of American drinkers – vodka, and champagne.

It’s also possible drinks that cause more severe hangovers merit more frequent mentions in Instagram posts. Fermentation produces chemicals called congeners, which worsen symptoms. Dark-colored alcohol, like red wine and brandy, contain more congeners, as does less expensive alcohol that is distilled fewer times. Carbonated drinks like champagne may also lead to greater levels of intoxication, which could spark worse hangovers. In addition, a couple of the drinks on this list are considered cures rather than culprits: Sipping either a coffee or bloody mary are both common comfort measures.

A State of Mind

Feeling crummy after a night out and sharing it on social media seems to be more common in certain states. Drinkers in Oregon had the most hangover-related Instagram posts, sharing nearly twice as many per capita as the No. 2 state. Why? Possibly because of its beer-capital status: Portland has more breweries than any city in the world, and the culture of drinking and brewing extends across the state.

Instagrammers in New York had the second highest average number of hangover posts. Eastern New York has become a hot spot for wine and grape production. And in New York City, a work-hard-play-hard mentality dominates, business people network during happy hour, and public transit and ride-hailing services are readily available for those who imbibe. Even Nevada has some of the least restrictive liquors laws in the country and boasts two party hot spots within its borders: Las Vegas and Reno. (It’s safe to wager many #hangover posts have been prompted by a night at a Sin City casino.)

However, Instagram users in Mississippi penned the fewest hangover posts per capita, followed closely by Arkansas and South Dakota residents. Kansas and West Virginia rounded out the bottom five. According to a 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health, the South and parts of the Midwest experience lower rates of binge drinking (and alcohol consumption in general) compared to many other areas in the country – and fewer drinks mean fewer hangovers.

Worldwide Alcohol Use

Across the world, one city claimed the most Instagram posts about hangovers: New York City. As mentioned above, it’s pretty easy to overdo it in the Big Apple, thanks to ample drinking opportunities and accessible transportation. Brewery capital Portland, Oregon, and nightlife hub Las Vegas, Nevada, also had the most Instagram posts dedicated to hangovers.

The U.K. was also on our list, perhaps because of a drinking age of 18 and a booze-focused culture that considers alcohol consumption as a normal part of daily life. In London, although the number of pubs has declined in recent years, heading out for a pint (or three) after work is commonplace.

Further, Toronto, Ontario, offers an abundant nightlife and easy access to public transit and ride-hailing services. A drinking age of 19 and an increasingly tolerant view of public alcohol consumption may also make it easy to down a few too many wobbly pops in Canada’s most populous city. In fact, Toronto recently passed an ordinance to legalize drinking in public parks.

Two international cities stand out: Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is a tourist hot spot known for its top-notch beverages, though only visitors and non-Muslims can imbibe. The local rules are strict, and experts advise being vague on social media about alcohol consumption. (Perhaps those head-pounding hangovers are causing Instagram users to make poor posting decisions there.)

Bondi Beach, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, also forbids public drinking, but the local beach and the many bars and pubs tend to draw partiers. Memorably, despite Bondi’s zero-tolerance crackdown, Tourism Australia once shared an Instagram post advising visitors to relax at Bondi Beach with a “chilled bottle of wine.” It looks like at least a few #hangover posters embraced the suggestion.

When Do Hangovers Strike?

3 … 2 … 1 … ouch. It turns out many Americans may ring in the New Year with a whopping hangover. Out of every month, January saw the most hangover-related Instagram posts, followed by April and March. Several traditionally booze-soaked events occur during these months: the wee morning hours of New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, and (typically) Spring Break.

Post-drinking regret seemed to occur most frequently on Sundays, based on Instagram posts, followed closely by Saturdays. But not everyone waits for the weekend – Mondays and Fridays also saw a surge in hangover-related posts.

One surprise: People shared their hangover woes most often during the afternoon and evening rather than the morning. Does this imply they’re just waking up? Waiting until they feel better to tap out an Instagram caption? Either way, aside from an uptick on Mondays between midnight and 2 a.m., most people posted about #hangovers after 3 p.m.

Instagram-Worthy Hangover Remedies

A smoothie. A plate of bacon and eggs. A strong cocktail. Anyone who’s ever consumed alcohol has probably been advised on miracle hangover cures by well-meaning friends and family. A text analysis of Instagram posts hashtagged with #hangovercure revealed some intriguing remedies.

According to Instagram posts that mentioned food, the morning meal ruled. The words “breakfast,” “brunch,” “bacon,” and “eggs” enjoyed sizzling popularity. Midday meals were on the agenda too, with the appearance of words like “lunch,” “pizza,” “burger,” and “chicken.” Based on the terms that pepper these food posts, #hangover-ridden Instagrammers seem to subscribe to two philosophies: healthful fare to settle the stomach (avocado, soup, or coconut) or calorie-laden treats (chocolate, fries, or sausage).

Drink-related #hangovercure posts featured a variety of beverages. The most commonly mentioned drink – coffee – is a traditional hangover remedy, but the jury’s out on its effectiveness. Some feel a hot cup of joe is the perfect pick-me-up, but others argue it worsens dehydration because caffeine is a diuretic, which prompts the body to rid itself of water.

Hot on java’s heels is good old H2O, followed by the term “bloody,” which refers to a bloody mary: a spicy vodka and tomato juice cocktail. One theory is if people with hangovers consume alcohol (“the hair of the dog” that bit you, as the saying goes), the ethanol will essentially cancel out the methanol in your body after a night of drinking. As a general rule, drinking more isn’t a good idea. However, some people swear by the bloody mary “cure,” in particular, as tomatoes contain vitamin C (an antioxidant), potassium, sodium (electrolytes), and several other vitamins, including hangover-busting B6.

The rest of the drinks vary widely. Some Instagrammers tossed around health-conscious terms like “detox,” “smoothie,” “green,” “tea,” “vegan,” “hydration,” and “organic.” Others used words like “beer,” “alcohol,” “cocktails,” “wine,” “vodka,” and “mimosas.”

The Consequences of a Few Too Many

When you wake up feeling like you’ve been hit in the head with a bag of rocks, it’s easy to crack jokes about hangovers. But consuming too much alcohol is no laughing matter. Heavy drinking is linked to health problems including cancer, liver damage, and heart disease, while binge drinking (consuming five or more drinks at once) is linked to alcohol poisoning, injuries, and automobile accidents.

Your best bet is to prevent a hangover before it starts. Your options? Don’t drink alcohol, drink alcohol very slowly, or drink while eating a meal or right after eating. You should also stay hydrated, swapping drinks for frequent glasses of water. If you do get hit with a nasty hangover, it’s unlikely any miracle cure will help. For a headache, you can take an anti-inflammatory, such as aspirin or ibuprofen; if you’re nauseated, you can pop relief medicine (like antacids) to curb your churning stomach. Otherwise, you can relax, sip water, and wait it out.

If you or a loved one struggles with alcohol use, you don’t need to face the challenge alone. Visit Detox.net today to get in touch with the nation’s top detox and rehab facilities.

Methodology

We scraped Instagram hashtags for #hangover, #hungover, #stilldrunk, #hairofthedog, #hangoverface, and #hangovercure. We then filtered the posts by geotagged coordinates to develop a list of the most posts per state and city. We used U.S. census data to determine per 100,000 population.

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