Media Releases

Childhood adversities, including witnessing parental domestic violence, linked to later migraines

June 25, 2015

TORONTO, ON – Adults who were exposed to child­hood adver­si­ty, includ­ing wit­ness­ing parental domes­tic vio­lence, or expe­ri­enc­ing child­hood phys­i­cal and sex­u­al abuse, have high­er odds of expe­ri­enc­ing migraine headaches in adult­hood, accord­ing to a new study from researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

“We found the more types of vio­lence the indi­vid­ual had been exposed to dur­ing their child­hood, the greater the odds of migraine. For those who report­ed all three types of adversities—parental domes­tic vio­lence, child­hood phys­i­cal and sex­u­al abuse—the odds of migraine were a lit­tle over three times high­er for men and just under three times high­er for women,” said Sarah Bren­nen­stuhl, PhD, first author of the study.

Inves­ti­ga­tors exam­ined a nation­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple of 12,638 women and 10,358 men aged 18 and over from the 2012 Cana­di­an Com­mu­ni­ty Health Sur­vey-Men­tal Health.

“The most sur­pris­ing find­ing was the link between expo­sure to parental domes­tic vio­lence and migraines. Even after account­ing for vari­ables includ­ing age, race, socioe­co­nom­ic sta­tus, his­to­ry of depres­sion and anx­i­ety, and child­hood phys­i­cal and sex­u­al abuse, men and women who had wit­nessed parental domes­tic vio­lence had 52% and 64% high­er odds of migraine, respec­tive­ly, com­pared to those with­out such a his­to­ry,” says co-author Pro­fes­sor Esme Fuller-Thom­son, who also holds the San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair at Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work.

The study was pub­lished online this week in the jour­nal Headache.

“The cross-sec­tion­al design of our study does not allow us to deter­mine if the asso­ci­a­tion between ear­ly adver­si­ties and migraines is causative, but our find­ings do under­line the impor­tance of future prospec­tive stud­ies inves­ti­gat­ing the long-term phys­i­cal health of chil­dren exposed to parental domes­tic vio­lence,” says Fuller-Thom­son.


For more infor­ma­tion con­tact:

Prof. Esme Fuller-Thom­son
Pro­fes­sor & San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair
Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work &
Depart­ment of Fam­i­ly & Com­mu­ni­ty Med­i­cine
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Cell: 416–209-3231

Michael Kennedy
Media Rela­tions
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Office: 416–946-5025