Migraine, headache, and the risk of depression: Prospective cohort study

Cephalalgia. 2013 Sep;33(12):1017-25. doi: 10.1177/0333102413483930. Epub 2013 Apr 15.


Background: While cross-sectional studies have shown associations between migraine and depression, few studies have been able to evaluate the association between migraine and incident depression.

Methods: A prospective cohort study among 36,016 women without a history of depression enrolled in the Women's Health Study who provided information about migraine and headache at baseline. Women were classified as either having nonmigraine headache, migraine with aura, migraine without aura, past history of migraine or no history of headache. Cox proportional hazards models were used to evaluate the association between migraine and headache status and incident depression.

Results: At baseline, 5115 women reported a history of nonmigraine headache, 1805 reported migraine with aura, 2723 reported migraine without aura, and 1896 reported a past history of migraine. During 13.8 mean years of follow-up, 3833 new cases of depression occurred. The adjusted relative risks of incident depression were 1.44 (95% CI: 1.32, 1.56) for nonmigraine headache, 1.53 (95% CI: 1.35, 1.74) for migraine with aura, 1.40 (95% CI: 1.25, 1.56) for migraine without aura, and 1.56 (95% CI: 1.37, 1.77) for past history of migraine compared to no history of headache.

Conclusions: Middle-aged women with migraine or nonmigraine headache are at increased risk of incident depression. Frequent migraine attacks (weekly or daily) were associated with the highest risk for developing depression.

Keywords: Migraine; depression; epidemiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Headache / complications*
  • Headache / psychology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors