Depression Twice as Likely For Migraine Sufferers

A new study has found that the prevalence of depression among those who suffer migraine headaches is approximately twice as high as for those without migraines.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that in men, the difference was 8.4 percent vs. 3.4 percent, while in women it was 12.4 percent vs. 5.7 percent.

The study found that younger migraine sufferers were particularly at risk for depression. Women with migraines who were younger than 30 had six times the odds of depression in comparison to sufferers who were aged 65 and over, according to Esme Fuller-Thomson, Ph.D., a professor in the university’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.

The researchers also found that migraine sufferers who were not married, as well as those who had difficulties with daily activities also had a higher prevalence of depression.

The researchers used data on more than 67,000 Canadians collected during the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey to examine the link between migraine and depression.

More than 6,000 of the survey respondents reported that they had been diagnosed by a health professional with migraines. Consistent with previous research, the prevalence of migraines was much higher in women than men, with one in every seven women reporting they had migraines, compared to one in every 16 men, the researchers reported.

The study also investigated the relationship between chronic migraine and thoughts of suicide.

For both men and women, those with migraines were much more likely to have seriously considered suicide, according to the researchers.

They found that 15.6 percent of men who suffer migraines had thoughts of suicide, compared to 7.9 percent of men who don’t suffer from migraines. For women, 17.6 percent of those who suffer from migraines had suicidal thoughts, compared to 9.1 percent of women who don’t have migraines.

The researchers found that migraine sufferers under age 30 had four times the odds of lifetime suicidal ideation in comparison to those aged 65 and over. Other factors associated with suicidal thoughts among those with migraines included being unmarried, a lower household income, and greater activity limitations.

“We are not sure why younger [people with migraines] have such a high likelihood of depression and suicidal ideation,” said co-author and former graduate student Meghan Schrumm, M.S.W.

“It may be that younger people with migraines have not yet managed to find adequate treatment or develop coping mechanisms to minimize pain and the impact of this chronic illness on the rest of their lives. The much lower prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation among older migraineurs suggests a promising area for future research.”

The study was published in the journal Depression Research and Treatment.