A large new study from Canada finds that people who suffer from migraines are also more likely to have depression and think about suicide than counterparts who do not have them.
Researchers from the University of Toronto analyzed data from a representative sample of more than 67,000 people who took part in the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey and looked for gender-specific links between migraine and depression.
Over 6,000 of the participants reported having been diagnosed with migraine, and in line with previous studies, migraine was found to be much more common in women (1 in every 7) than men (1 in every 16).
The analysis shows that depression among people with migraine was about twice as common as in people without migraine (8.4% versus 3.4% for men and 12.4% versus 5.7% for women).
The researchers write about their findings in a paper published online this week in the journal Depression Research and Treatment.
Lead author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman, Endowed Chair at Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, and colleagues write that younger migraine sufferers were the group at highest risk for depression.
Female migraine sufferers under 30 years of age were more than six times as likely to have depression as sufferers aged 65 and over, Prof. Fuller-Thomson says.
As well as examining links between migraine and depression, the researchers analyzed links between migraine and thoughts about suicide.
They found, for both men and women, those with migraines were twice as likely to have "ever seriously considered suicide or taking (their) own life" than those without migraines. For men, the figures were 15.6% versus 7.9%, and for women they were 17.6% versus 9.1%.
As with depression, there was a stark contrast between younger and older migraine sufferers: those under 30 were four times more likely to have considered suicide than those over 65.
Co-author Meghan Schrumm says:
"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."
She suggests further research should be done on the much lower rates of depression and suicidal thoughts among the older migraine sufferers.
Prof. Fuller-Thomson says their findings underline the need for routine screening and targeted interventions for depression and suicidality, particularly for the the most vulnerable migraine sufferers.
Another study recently published in the journal Neurology found that migraines can alter brain structure permanently and increase the risk of brain lesions.