Socio-economic factors, lifestyle, and headache disorders - a population-based study in Sweden

Headache. 2008 Nov-Dec;48(10):1426-37. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2008.01178.x. Epub 2008 Jul 1.


Objective: To study the association between socio-economic factors, lifestyle habits, and self-reported recurrent headache/migraine (RH/M) in a general population.

Methods: The study population comprised a random sample of men and women aged 18-79 years. The data were obtained using a postal survey questionnaire during March-May 2000. The overall response rate was 65%. The area investigated covers 58 municipalities with about one million inhabitants in central part of Sweden. The study is based on 43,770 respondents. Odds ratios for RH/M were calculated for a set of variables using multiple logistic regression models.

Results: The overall prevalence of self-reported RH/M during the last 3 months was 10% among men and 23% among women and decreased with increasing age. Physically inactive subjects were more likely to suffer from headache disorders than physically active subjects. Smoking was only moderately associated with RH/M. There was an inverse relationship between heavy alcohol use and RH/M. Underweight and obesity were not associated with headache disorders when adjusted for socio-economic factors. Subjects with frequent economic problems had almost twice the risk of RH/M compared with subjects with no economic problems. Poor social support was associated with headache disorders and subjects who had been belittled during the last 3 months were more than twice as likely to suffer from RH/M as subjects who had not been belittled. The effect of educational level was modest. Marital status and country of origin were not associated with headache disorders after adjustment for other socio-economic factors. Dissatisfaction with work, worry about losing one's job, and absenteeism due to illness were strongly associated with headache disorders. Physical working conditions and working hours were not associated with RH/M.

Conclusion: Headache disorders mainly affect young and middle-aged adults. There are, however, socio-economic disparities in self-reported recurrent headache and migraine. The relationship was particularly evident for economic hardship and psychosocial factors. Of lifestyle factors, physical inactivity was strongly associated with headache disorders independent of economic and psychosocial factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Self-Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Sweden / epidemiology