Chronic Migraine Sufferers Sicker, Poorer, More Depressed

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

Chronic migraine sufferers tend to be in poorer general health, less well-off and more depressed than those people who experience episodic migraine.

That's the revelation from research published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The findings are based on almost 12,000 adults with episodic migraine or chronic migraine. Episodic migraine means experiencing a severe headache on up to 14 days of the month, which chronic migraine  means experiencing a headache on 15 or more days of the month.

All participants were already part of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention study, a long-term U.S. population-based study of 24,000 headache sufferers, which has included regular surveys since 2004. The research team specifically analyzed data collected in the 2005 survey on socioeconomic circumstances and other health problems.

The results showed those participants with chronic migraine had significantly lower levels of household income, were less likely to be working full-time and were almost twice as likely to have a job-related disability than their peers with episodic migraine.

They were also twice as likely to be depressed or anxious and to experience chronic pain. And they were significantly more likely to have other serious health problems. These health issues included asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. They were also around 40 percent more likely to have heart disease and angina and 70 percent more likely to have had a stroke.

The authors point out that chronic migraine "can be an especially disabling and burdensome condition."

Previous research indicates chronic migraine sufferers have a relatively high level of sick leave, reduced productivity and poorer quality of family life than episodic migraine sufferers. It also suggested that few chronic migraine sufferers are diagnosed correctly and that only around one in three chronic migraine headache patients are treated appropriately.

The differences unearthed between the two groups in the present study might reflect differences in biological risk factors and provide valuable clues as to how episodic migraine progresses to chronic migraine, suggest the authors.

Emma Dickinson

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 20, 2010