Quality of life in primary headache disorders: A review

Cephalalgia. 2016 Jan;36(1):67-91. doi: 10.1177/0333102415580099. Epub 2015 Apr 17.


Background: Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) is emerging as an important element of clinical research in primary headache disorders, allowing a measure of the impact of headache on patients' well-being and daily life. A better understanding of this may contribute to improved resource allocations and treatment approaches.

Objective: The objective of this study is to review available data on HRQoL in primary headache disorders and identify any influencing factors.

Methods: Database searches including MEDLINE, PsycINFO and EMBASE were performed. Studies that investigated HRQoL in patients with primary headache disorders were included and reviewed. Trials that evaluated the efficacy of medications or interventions were excluded.

Results: A total of 80 articles were included in the review. Both physical and emotional/mental aspects of HRQoL were impaired across headache subtypes, although the extent varied depending on headache type. A number of factors influencing HRQoL were also identified.

Conclusion: This narrative review suggests that headache, particularly in its chronic form, has a great impact on HRQoL. Clinical practice should not solely focus on pain alleviation but rather adopt routine assessment of HRQoL. Furthermore, identification and management of associated psychological comorbidities, which can significantly influence HRQoL in headache sufferers, are essential for optimal clinical management.

Keywords: Primary headache disorder; chronic daily headache; cluster headache; migraine; quality of life; tension-type headache.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Headache Disorders, Primary / diagnosis*
  • Headache Disorders, Primary / psychology*
  • Headache Disorders, Primary / therapy
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Pain Management / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology*