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Migraines Could Increase Depression Risk, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 18, 2013 04:20 PM EDT

In a new study, the research team with lead author, Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, examined the association between migraines and depression. The researchers analyzed the roles of migraines, age and sex in relation to depression and suicidal ideation. They found that younger women who suffer from migraines have the greatest risk of depression in comparison to other groups within the study.

For this study, the researchers examined that data on over 67,000 Canadians gathered from the 2005 Canadian Community Health Survey. The group of Canadians was considered to be representative of the larger population. From this sample set, the researchers reported that over 6,000 people were clinically diagnosed with migraines. The researchers noted that women tend to suffer from migraines more often than men. One in seven women reported having migraines while only one in 16 men did.

The researchers then compared risk factors between multiple variables. They reported that for men who did not have migraines, their risk of depression was 3.4 percent. This percentage jumped to 8.4 percent if they suffered from migraines. The percentages for women were generally higher. The risk of depression was 5.7 percent and 12.4 percent for women without migraines and for women with migraines respectively. The researchers found that specifically for women under 30 with the health issue, their risk of depression was six times higher when compared to women over 65. Women with migraines under 30-years-old were also four times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than women with migraines who were over 65-years-old.

"We are not sure why younger 'migrainers' 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," Co-author and former graduate student Meghan Schrumm commented according to Medical Xpress. "The much lower prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation among older 'migrainers' suggests a promising area for future research."

When researchers compared suicidal ideation between men and women, they found that women were more likely to have suicidal thoughts. 17.6 percent of women with migraines had suicidal ideation whereas 15.6 percent of men with migraines did as well. Other than these factors, the researchers also reported that being unmarried, having a lower household income and more activity limitations increased depression risk and suicidal ideation. The researchers hope that their findings provide more insight as to how to treat people who have a greater risk of depression.

The study was published in Depression Research and Treatment.

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