Migraines Linked to Major Depressive Disorder

Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor
Published Online: Monday, November 28, 2011
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Individuals who have migraines have a higher chance of experiencing major depressive episodes, according to research published online in the journal Headache. The study also found that those with major depressive episodes are at an increased risk of having migraines.

It is critical, therefore, that individuals who suffer from migraines learn about major depressive symptoms, and that those with clinical depression know about the signs and symptoms of migraines, said lead author Geeta Modgill, MsC, of the University of Calgary.

Previous population-based cross-sectional studies had indicated that there is likely a link between depression and migraine, a condition that affects more than 28 million adults in the United States and is more common in women. Longitudinal studies, however, had not demonstrated compellingly that the link works both ways.

In the study, Modgill and colleagues analyzed data from 15,254 individuals from the Canadian National Population Health Survey to determine whether major depressive episodes (MDEs) were linked to a higher migraine risk in the general population, and whether migraine might be associated with MDE risk.

Investigators found that overall, 15% of individuals had MDEs and 12% had bouts of migraine during the 12-year study period. They reported that migraine sufferers have a 60% higher risk of suffering from MDEs compared to those who never have migraines, and that individuals who experienced MDEs have a 40% higher chance of developing migraine compared to those without MDEs, according to an online article.

In both cases, adjustments were made for sex, age, and other chronic conditions. The investigators believe that certain factors such as childhood stress may impact how the brain subsequently responds to stress.

“The current study provides substantial evidence that migraine is associated with the later development of MDEs, but does not provide strong causal evidence of an association in the other direction,” they concluded. “Environmental factors such as childhood trauma and stress may shape the expression of this bidirectional relationship; however, the precise underlying mechanisms are not yet known.”

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