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Chronic Migraine Is Associated With Reduced Household Income and Greater Headache Impact

CHICAGO, Oct. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New data presented today at The 2010 European Headache and Migraine Trust International Congress (EHMTIC) shows that persons with chronic migraine (headache on greater than or equal to 15 days per month) are much more likely to have annual household incomes below $30,000 than those with episodic migraine (headache on < 15 days per month).  This difference in household income may be attributable to the greater adverse headache impact in the chronic migraine group.  Chronic migraine, a condition characterized by headaches more days than not, afflicts about 1 in 50 Americans.  This research is from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study (AMPP), the largest-ever longitudinal study of headache.

The study involved 373 individuals with chronic migraine and 6,554 with episodic migraine. Those with chronic migraine were more likely to have average annual household incomes below $30,000 than those with episodic migraine (38.3% of chronic migraineurs and 26.5% of episodic migraineurs had household incomes of less than $30,000/year).   The Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) measures the burden of headache in areas including work, school, social life, and feelings such as fatigue, irritability and difficulty with concentration over the previous month.  Those with chronic migraine had an average score of 64 (indicating "severe impact") and those with episodic migraine had an average score of 58 (indicating "substantial impact").

Study co-investigator, Dawn C. Buse, PhD,  Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of Behavioral Medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center, Bronx, NY, said,  "These results reinforce the fact that the impact of headache is most significant among persons with chronic migraine when compared to persons with episodic migraine.  In addition, we find that headache impact is predicted by headache pain intensity, severity of associated symptoms, and the presence of depression."

The good news according to study co-investigator, Richard B. Lipton, MD, Professor of Neurology at Einstein and Director of the Montefiore Headache Center, is that chronic migraine, its symptoms, and comorbidities including depression and anxiety are very treatable.  Dr. Lipton advises, "Persons living with chronic migraine should speak with a knowledgeable health care professional about available treatments."


The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention study began in 2004 when questionnaires were mailed to 120,000 U.S. households to identify severe headache sufferers.  A sample of 24,000 severe headache sufferers, identified in 2004, have been followed annually through 2009.  The 2009 survey included the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6), a self administered, six-item questionnaire that measures pain severity, activity limitations, fatigue, irritability and difficulty concentrating due to headache.  Total sum scores range from 36-78 in the following categories: "no/little impact" (<50), "some impact" (50-55), "substantial impact" (56-59), and "severe impact" (60+).

Migraine is a neurological syndrome characterized by severe, painful headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.  Headaches may last for hours or even days.  The pain is often on one side of the head and pulsating.  Headaches may be preceded by aura: sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs.  

Migraine can place a significant burden on headache sufferers, their families, and society.   And chronic migraine has been demonstrated to have even greater impact than episodic migraine on a range of factors including socioeconomic status (employment status, household income), headache-related-disability (missed time from work, family and leisure activities), health-related quality of life, and direct and indirect medical costs.  It has also been established that those with chronic migraine are more likely to have additional comorbid medical and psychiatric conditions.

Sponsorship: The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study is funded through a research grant to the National Headache Foundation from Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc., Titusville, NJ.  Additional analyses for this work were supported by Allergan Inc., Irvine, CA.

To learn more about severe headaches, visit the National Headache Foundation website at, or find a headache specialist in your area.

SOURCE National Headache Foundation
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