Early Abuse and Later Migraine: Study Finds Positive Association Between

Findings from a preliminary study scheduled for presentation next month at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, draw a connection between incidence of emotional abuse and propensity for migraine headache in children. The observed link was stronger in cases of emotional abuse than for physical or sexual abuse. 14,484 people aged 24 to 32 were evaluated in the study, of whom 14% reported incidents of migraine. The study population were questioned as to experiences of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse during childhood, with affirmative responses recorded in 47%, 18%, and 5% of respondents respectively. The cohort reporting emotional abuse were 52% more likely to have migraine than those who were not abused. No such association was noted in cases of physical or sexual abuse.

Even after adjusting results for cases of depression and anxiety, a positive association between emotional abuse and migraine was observed. Study author Gretchen Tietjen, MD, from the University of Toledo, Ohio, noted “Emotional abuse showed the strongest link to increased risk of migraine. Childhood abuse can have long-lasting effects on health and well-being.” She further observed that the study results do not definitively establish cause and effect, although the findings are suggestive of it. Pending further research into the relationship, she suggested that the presence of childhood emotional abuse be considered in the treatment of migraine.

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