Migraine Headaches in Women Linked to Depression

Posted on March 9th, 2012
Posted in Depression

If you are a woman with a history of migraine headaches with or without auras, you have a 36% increased risk of developing depression in later life, according to a new study from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

Dr. Tobias Kurth and his colleagues studied the records of 36,154 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Study who had never suffered from depression. At baseline about 18% or 6,456 women reported having migraine headaches, but not within the past 12 months. Fourteen years later, the research team found that 3,971 or 11% of all participants had been diagnosed with depression by a physician. The ones who reported migraines had 1.36 times the risk for developing depression compared to those who never suffered from such headaches.

Dr. Kurth believes that the pathomechanisms that cause migraines may be similar to those that cause depression. These mechanisms may involve neurotransmitters or other neural processes. Dr. Kurth said that the link between migraine and depression is most likely true of men as well as women.

“That is a starting point for future research — can we disentangle this information? Is it a chronic pain or is it just something very specific to migraineurs? Do patients with lower back pain have the same risk of depression or is it something that is specific to the migraine group?” he said.

Migraine headaches are also linked to anxiety, sleep disturbance, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, welcomed the findings of the new study.

“What makes this research different is that it is such a large study with such a long follow-up that it sort of confirms the lesser studies that we have assumed to be accurate,” he said.

The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting.

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