Negative impact of episodic migraine on a university population: quality of life, functional impairment, and comorbid psychiatric symptoms

Headache. 2011 Apr;51(4):581-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2011.01857.x.


Background: Migraine is associated with significant negative impact, including reduced quality of life, impaired functioning, and comorbid psychiatric disorders. However, the impact of migraine on university students is understudied, despite their high prevalence of migraine and psychiatric disorders and their frequent use in research studies.

Objectives: The aim of this cross-sectional study was to evaluate the impact of migraine among college students on quality of life, functional impairment, and comorbid psychiatric symptoms.

Methods: Three hundred and ninety-one students (76.73% female, mean age = 19.43 ± 2.80 years) completed well-validated measures of migraine and migraine-related disability, quality of life, and comorbid psychiatric symptoms. They also quantified impairment in school attendance and home functioning and reported the number of medical visits during the preceding 3 months.

Results: One hundred and one (25.83%) met conservative screening criteria for episodic migraine; their mean score on the Migraine Disability Assessment Questionnaire was 9.98 ± 12.10. Compared to those not screening positive for migraine, the migraine-positive group reported reduced quality of life on 5 of 6 domains, as well as a higher frequency of missed school days (2.74 vs 1.36), impaired functioning at home (2.84 vs 1.21 days), and medical visits (1.86 vs 0.95). They also reported more symptoms of both depression and anxiety than controls, although differences in functional impairment remained after controlling for these comorbid psychiatric symptoms. These differences were highly statistically significant and corroborated by evidence of clinically significant impairment; the corresponding effect sizes were modest but non-trivial.

Conclusions: Episodic migraine is associated with negative impact in numerous domains among university students. These findings replicate and extend those of studies on other samples and have implications for future research studies with this population.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Young Adult