Prevalence and risk factors of morning headaches in the general population

Arch Intern Med. 2004 Jan 12;164(1):97-102. doi: 10.1001/archinte.164.1.97.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of chronic morning headaches (CMH) in the general population and their relationship to sociodemographic characteristics, psychoactive substance use, and organic, sleep, and mental disorders.

Methods: A telephone questionnaire was submitted to 18 980 individuals 15 years or older and representative of the general populations of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. It included a series of questions about morning headaches, organic disorders, use of psychoactive substances, and sleep and mental disorders in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV).

Results: Overall, the prevalence of CMH was 7.6% (n = 1442); CMH were reported to occur "daily" by 1.3% of the sample, "often" by 4.4%, and "sometimes" by 1.9%. Rates were higher in women than in men (8.4% vs 6.7%) and in subjects aged between 45 and 64 years (about 9%). The median duration for CMH was 42 months. Various conditions and disorders were found positively associated with CMH. The most significant associated factors were comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders (28.5% vs 5.5%), major depressive disorder alone (21.3% vs 5.5%), dyssomnia not otherwise specified (17.1% vs 6.9%), insomnia disorder (14.4% vs 6.9%), and circadian rhythm disorder (20.0% vs 7.5%). Sleep-related breathing disorder (15.2% vs 7.5%), hypertension (11.0% vs 7.2%), musculoskeletal diseases (14.1% vs 7.1%), use of anxiolytic medication (20.1% vs 7.3%), and heavy alcohol consumption (12.6% vs 7.7%) were also significantly associated with CMH.

Conclusions: Morning headache affects 1 individual in 13 in the general population. Chronic morning headaches are a good indicator of major depressive disorders and insomnia disorders. Contrary to what was previously suggested, however, they are not specific to sleep-related breathing disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology*
  • Headache / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents