Media Releases

Depression twice as likely in migraine sufferers

October 17, 2013

Study finds the prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation much higher among individuals with migraine

TORONTO, ON — The preva­lence of depres­sion among those with migraine is approx­i­mate­ly twice as high as for those with­out the dis­ease (men: 8.4% vs. 3.4%; women 12.4% vs. 5.7%), accord­ing to a new study pub­lished by Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to researchers.

In a paper pub­lished online this week in the jour­nal Depres­sion Research and Treat­ment, inves­ti­ga­tors report­ed that younger migraine suf­fer­ers were par­tic­u­lar­ly at risk for depres­sion. Women with migraines who were younger than 30 had six times the odds of depres­sion in com­par­i­son to suf­fer­ers who were aged 65 and over, said lead author, Pro­fes­sor Esme Fuller-Thom­son, San­dra Rot­man Endowed Chair at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Fac­tor-Inwen­tash Fac­ul­ty of Social Work. Unmar­ried indi­vid­u­als and migraine suf­fer­ers who had dif­fi­cul­ties with dai­ly activ­i­ties also had high odds of depres­sion.

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.

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% ver­sus 7.9%; women: 17.6% ver­sus 9.1%). Migraineurs under age 30 had four times the odds of life­time sui­ci­dal ideation in com­par­i­son to migraineurs 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 com­ment­ed “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.”

Dr. 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.”

Access the orig­i­nal study here:


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

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

Mike Kennedy
Media Rela­tions Offi­cer
Tel: 416–946-5025