Gender, Social Impairment, Depression Predict Adolescent Headache Prognoses

Woman with hands on head, pain, headache, migraine
Woman with hands on head, pain, headache, migraine
Researchers identified similar characteristics in adolescent girls who experience frequent headaches.

Female sex, social impairment, and depressive symptoms represent potential predictors for short- and long-term prognosis in early adolescent patients with headaches, according to study findings published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

A total of 1266 patients between ages 26 and 28 (mean, 27.2±0.59) who participated in the Youth and Mental Health Study during early adolescence completed electronic questionnaires regarding long-term headache frequency and duration

The investigators also collected data on participants’ age, sex, parental divorce, number of friends, school absence, pain comorbidity, associated depressive symptoms, behavioral problems, and leisure-time impairment and their association with short- and long-term headache frequency. 

At the extended follow-up, 8.4% of participants reported at least one headache per week, which categorized these patients as experiencing frequent headaches. Headache frequency and duration was significantly associated with daily or almost-daily headaches and headaches with the longest duration (6.9%) (χ2 [4]=16.14; P <.001). In addition, women reported a significantly higher frequency of headaches than men (12.7% vs 2.8%, respectively; χ2 [3]=46.55; P <.001].

A greater percentage of patients who reported frequent comorbid pain also reported higher headache frequency than patients with no accompanying comorbid pain (P <.001). Parental divorce, pain comorbidity at baseline, and impairment during leisure-time activities or socializing were associated with increased reports of frequent headaches compared with infrequent headaches (P <.001, P <.001, and P <.05, respectively]. 

Depressive symptoms also predicted long-term prognosis in the cohort.

The use of self-reports to retrospectively identify headache frequencies and durations represented a potential limitation of the study.

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Findings from this study may help “improve the identification of individuals experiencing persistent frequent headaches over extended periods,” the researchers concluded.


Larsson B, Sigurdson JF, Sund AM. Long-term follow-up of a community sample of adolescents with frequent headaches. J Headache Pain. 2018;19(1):79.