When It's More Than a Migraine…

Migraine sufferers at greater depression risk and at higher risk for suicidal thoughts

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Suffering from migraines can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. It's not hard to imagine that migraine sufferers may be at risk for depression as well.

A recent study found that individuals with migraines are, in fact, at higher risk for depression and for having suicidal thoughts.

Men were a little more likely than women to experience depression if they had migraines.

However, the increased risks for depression and thoughts of suicide for migraine sufferers existed across men and women of different races and socioeconomic groups.

The researchers recommended that individuals with migraines be screened for depression and receive extra attention.

"Ask about being screened for depression if you have migraines."

The study, led by Esme Fuller-Thomson, PhD, of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto in Canada, aimed to understand possible relationships between depression and migraine headaches.

The researchers used data on two groups of men and women who responded in the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey.

The responders reported whether they had been medically diagnosed with migraine headaches and whether they had ever considered suicide during their lifetimes.

They also answered questions related to depression symptoms that allowed the researchers to assess what levels of depression they might have, if any.

The group that focused on the relationship between depression and migraines included 66,720 participants. Among these participants, 10 percent (6,679 individuals) had migraines and 5.6 percent (3,759 individuals) had depression.

The other group of 81,658 adults looked at the relationship between migraines and thoughts of suicide. In this group, 10.7 percent (8,731 individuals) had migraines and 10.6 percent (8,694) had had thoughts of suicide.

Then the researchers compared the responses to look for patterns among those who had depression, thoughts of suicide, and migraines.

The researchers found that individuals who suffered from migraines were about twice as likely to experience depression, with men at slightly higher risk than women.

Men and women who had migraines also had about 1.7 greater odds of having considered suicide before.

These increased risks for depression and suicidal thoughts among migraine sufferers remained even after the researchers considered the participants' demographic and social characteristics and whether they had a disability.

However, the researchers did find that those who had migraines and were younger, unmarried, or had greater limitations on their activities were more likely to experience depression or suicidal thoughts.

"While screening for depression is already recommended for those with migraine, this research helps identify which [people with migraines] may require more immediate attention, including those who are younger, unmarried, and experiencing limitations in their activities," the researchers wrote.

The study was published in the October issue of the journal Depression Research and Treatment. The research was funded by Dr. Fuller-Thomson's Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in Social Work.

Review Date: 
October 24, 2013
Last Updated:
February 10, 2014