Many people believe that hangovers might delay subsequent drinking through pain and discomfort, or perhaps hasten drinking to relieve hangover symptoms, known as "the hair of the dog."
The latest study investigated if a hangover following a drinking episode can influence the time to a future drink, finding that the influence is minimal.
Thomas M Piasecki, a professor at the University of Missouri, as well as corresponding author for the study and his colleagues recruited 386 (196 males, 190 females) community-based frequent drinkers, oversampling for current smokers, to carry electronic diaries for 21 days while reporting on drinking behaviours and other experiences.
Analysis was performed on data culled from 2,276 drinking episodes, including 463 episodes that were followed by self-reported hangovers in the morning-diary entries.
"Our main finding is that hangovers appear to have a very modest effect on subsequent drinking," said Piasecki.
"On average, the time between drinking episodes was extended by only a few hours after a hangover," Piasecki said.
Researchers looked to see whether there were particular subgroups of drinkers who might show distinctive patterns like 'hair of the dog' use, but didn't find clear evidence for that.
Participants made a diary entry each morning, and they were asked to rate their likelihood of drinking later the same day. It was striking that ratings made on hangover and non-hangover mornings did not differ.
Even when the drinkers were acutely suffering a hangover, it didn't seem to affect their conscious drinking intentions.
"No doubt this reflects the fact that drinking behaviour is determined by a host of factors, like day of the week, opportunity, and social plans," said Piasecki.
The findings appear in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.