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Childhood Adversities Up Risk of Migraines

Childhood Adversities Up Risk of Migraines

A new study suggests adults who were exposed to childhood adversity have higher odds of experiencing migraine headaches in adulthood.

Researchers at the University of Toronto found that the adversities could range from witnessing parental domestic violence, to childhood physical and sexual abuse.

“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, Ph.D., 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.

Researchers were surprised to find the link between psychological distress and the physical presentation of migraines.

“The most surprising finding was the link between exposure to parental domestic violence and migraines,” said co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson.

“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 percent and 64 percent higher odds of migraine, respectively, compared to those without such a history.”

The study appears online in the journal Headache.

While the study was observational and not cause-and-effect, researchers believe the findings will steer future research.

“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,” Fuller-Thomson said.

Source: University of Toronto/EuerkAlert

Childhood Adversities Up Risk of Migraines

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Childhood Adversities Up Risk of Migraines. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 25 Jun 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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