Young adults with migraines at higher risk for depression

The study also finds that migraine-sufferers under age 30 had four times the odds of lifetime suicidal ideation in comparison to those aged 65 and over. (Credit: Amanda Persch/Flickr)

Women under 30 who suffer from migraines have six times the odds of depression compared to those over age 65, report researchers.

The prevalence of depression among those with migraine is approximately twice as high as for those without the disease (men: 8.4 percent vs. 3.4 percent; women 12.4 percent vs. 5.7 percent), according to the new study.

In the journal Depression Research and Treatment, investigators report that younger migraine sufferers were particularly at risk for depression. Unmarried individuals and migraine sufferers who had difficulties with daily activities also had high odds of depression, says lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.


Data drawn from a representative sample of more than 67,000 Canadians, the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey, were used to examine gender-specific associations between migraine and depression.

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

Suicide risk

The study also investigated the relationship between migraine and suicidal ideation. For both men and women, those with migraines were much more likely to have “ever seriously considered suicide or taking (their) own life” than were those without migraines (men: 15.6 percent versus 7.9 percent; women: 17.6 percent versus 9.1 percent).

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 ideation among those with migraines included unmarried status, lower household income, and greater activity limitations.

Co-author and former graduate student Meghan Schrumm comments: “We are not sure why younger migraineurs have such a high likelihood of depression and suicidal ideation. 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.”

Fuller-Thomson adds that this study “draws further attention to the need for routine screening and targeted interventions for depression and suicidality, particularly among the most vulnerable migraineurs: Individuals who are young, unmarried, and those with activity limitations.”

Source: University of Toronto