Objectives: To examine the prevalence of headaches among US adolescents; to explore the differences in prevalence by sex, race, and age; and to test the nature of the association between headaches and depression, self-esteem, and insomnia.
Methods: This longitudinal study used a nationally representative sample of adolescents (n = 6072) who were interviewed in 1995 (wave 1) and then interviewed a year later in 1996 (wave 2). Path analyses were used to test for the relationships among headaches, insomnia, depression, and self-esteem.
Results: More than 90% of subjects had experienced one or more headaches during the past 12 months. Of that 90%, about 30% reported recurrent headaches occurring weekly or more frequently. Girls tended to report more recurrent headaches (37.6%) than boys (21.3%). American Indians experienced the highest rate (35. 6%) of recurrent headaches followed by white adolescents (32.1%). Depression and low self-esteem in wave 1 were found to precede the headaches in wave 2 in girls, but not in boys. No causal relationship was found between insomnia and headaches.
Conclusions: Headaches are prevalent among US adolescents, especially in girls and American Indians. This study suggests the existence of different paths involving different factors in headache-presenting behavior for boys and girls. Further studies are needed to illustrate the different mechanisms of headache in the two sexes.