The careful monitoring of the trigger factors of headache could be an important step in treatment, because their avoidance may lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. Furthermore, they may provide a clue to the aetiology of headache. The aim of the present study was to estimate the prevalence of tension-type headache (TTH) and to establish the frequency of precipitating factors in subjects with migraine and TTH in the adult population of Bakar, County of the Coast and Gorski Kotar, Croatia. Another important purpose of the study was to examine the relationship of the precipitating factors with migraine and TTH, and with migraine subtypes: migraine with aura (MA) and migraine without aura (MO). We performed a population-based survey using a 'face-to-face door-to-door' interview method. The surveyed population consisted of 5173 residents aged between 15 and 65 years. The 3794 participants (73.3%) were screened for headache history according to the International Headache Society (IHS) criteria. Headache screen-positive responders, 2475 (65.2%), were interviewed by trained medical students with a structured detailed interview focused on the precipitating factors. The following precipitating factors in lifetime migraineurs and tension-type headachers have been assessed: stress, sleep disturbances, eating habits, menstrual cycle, oral contraceptives, food items, afferent stimulation, changes in weather conditions and temperature, frequent travelling and physical activity. A total of 720 lifetime migraineurs and 1319 tension-type headachers have been identified. The most common precipitants for both migraine and TTH were stress and frequent travelling. Stress (odds ratio (OR) 1.4, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.17, 1.69) was associated with migraine, whereas physical activity (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.59, 0.87) was related to TTH. Considering MA and MO, frequent travelling (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.59, 2.99), food items (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.35, 3.51) and changes in weather conditions and temperature (OR 1.75, 95% CI 1.27, 2.41) exhibited a significant positive association with MA. The present study demonstrated that precipitant-dependent attacks are frequent among both migraineurs and tension-type headachers. Lifetime migraineurs experienced headache attacks preceded by triggering factors more frequently than tension-type headachers. MA was more frequently associated with precipitating factors than MO. We suggest that some triggering factors may contribute to the higher occurrence of precipitant-dependent headache attacks in susceptible individuals.