Higher Prevalence of Migraine Associated With Food Insecurity in Young Adults

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Researchers found data that showed a high incidence of self-reported migraine among young adults who also report frequent food insecurity.

A study found a higher prevalence of self-reported migraine in young adults who also report frequent food insecurity. Findings from this study were published in JAMA Neurology.

Cross-sectional data from the fourth wave (2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health were used to obtain self-reported data of US young adults aged 24 to 32 years. Food insecurity was identified by a self-reported response to a question regarding food shortage in the home within the past 12 months. According to the researchers, the question had a 93% sensitivity and 85% specificity. Migraine was also identified by a self-reported answer to an interview question that asked whether the patient had ever had a doctor, nurse, or other clinician provide the patient a verbal diagnosis of migraine headaches.

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Based on the responses to the food security questions, a total of 13,139 of the fourth-wave population reported food security (mean age, 28.3 years) vs 1647 who reported food insecurity (mean age, 28.4 years). Food insecurity was reported more frequently among individuals with a greater mean household size (2.5 vs 2.1; P <.001), those who smoked (46.3 vs 28.1; P <.001), and those who recently used public assistance (53.5 vs 20.7; P <.001).

Individuals who reported food insecurity had a higher self-reported prevalence of migraine than young adults who reported food security (23.9% vs 13.6%, respectively; P <.001). Greater odds of migraine were also found in young adults who reported food insecurity in the unadjusted analysis (odds ratio, 2.00; 95% CI, 1.68-2.38; P <.001) and adjusted analysis (adjusted odds ratio, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.30-1.95; P <.001).

Limitations of the study include its retrospective design and the reliance on self-reports for migraine identification.

Based on their findings, the investigators of the study suggest that “clinicians caring for persons who experience migraine should consider screening for food insecurity as a potential contributor to migraine exacerbations and provide referrals to programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”

The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.


Nagata JM, Weiser SD, Gooding HC, Garber AK, Bibbins-Domingo K, Palar K. Association between food insecurity and migraine among US young adults [published online June 24, 2019] . JAMA Neurol. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2019.1663