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One in 12 Canadians With Migraines Has Attempted Suicide

Almost one-third of all Canadians who have attempted suicide suffer from migraines, according to a new study conducted by University of Toronto (U of T) researchers. Overall, the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts among individuals with migraines was 8.7 percent compared to 2.3 percent of people without migraines.

The findings, published in the Archives of Suicide Research, also show that migraineurs with a history of childhood sexual abuse were three times more likely to attempt suicide; those with a history of childhood physical abuse were twice as likely to attempt suicide; and exposure to chronic parental domestic violence was linked to a 67 percent greater risk of attempting suicide.

“Even after taking into account most of the known risk factors for suicide attempts, those with migraines had 77 percent higher odds of having attempted suicide in comparison to those without migraines,” said lead author Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Director of the Institute for Life Course and Aging.

“Almost one-third (30 percent) of all Canadians who have attempted suicide are migraineurs.”

The researchers looked at a representative sample of 21,744 community-dwelling Canadians, of whom 2,223 reported they had been diagnosed with migraines by a health professional. Data was pulled from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

“When we examined only the respondents with migraine, we found that a history of exposure to parental domestic violence, childhood sexual and physical abuse played a huge role, explaining 23 percent of the variability in suicide attempts,” said co-author Gwyneth A. Hodgins, a recent University of Toronto Masters in Social Work graduate.

“To put this number in context, most of the other known risk factors for suicide attempts including gender, race, age, education, household income, level of chronic pain, and history of substance dependence, anxiety disorder and depression cumulatively only explained 26 percent of the variability in suicide attempts.”

An estimated 14 percent of the world’s population have suffered from migraines at some point. Studies have shown that women are more likely than men to have migraines.

“Clearly those with migraine are an extremely vulnerable population. Knowledge of the added risk of suicide attempts associated with migraineurs with a high level of chronic pain, lower income and a history of adverse childhood experiences, substance dependence, anxiety disorders and depression will hopefully help clinicians improve targeting and outreach to this population,” said Fuller-Thomson.

Source: University of Toronto


One in 12 Canadians With Migraines Has Attempted Suicide

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2019). One in 12 Canadians With Migraines Has Attempted Suicide. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 Apr 2019 (Originally: 6 Apr 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 5 Apr 2019
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