Associations Between Depression/Anxiety and Headache Frequency in Migraineurs: A Cross-Sectional Study

Headache. 2018 Mar;58(3):407-415. doi: 10.1111/head.13215. Epub 2017 Oct 18.


Background: While migraines have been associated with emotional disturbances, it remains unknown whether the intensity of emotional expression is directly related to migraine frequency.

Objective: The present study investigated depression/anxiety among migraineurs.

Methods: This cross-sectional study included 588 clinical outpatients in Taiwan. Migraines were stratified by attack frequency, with and without auras, and with well-controlled confounding variables. Demographic and clinical data, including sleep characteristics, were collected. Multivariable linear regressions were employed to examine whether migraine frequency (1-4 headache days per month, 5-8 headache days per month, 9-14 headache days per month, or >14 headache days per month) was associated with depression/anxiety symptoms, as indicated by the Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI) and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Subscales (HADS).

Results: BDI total scores were highest in patients with chronic migraines (mean ± SD: 13.2 ± 8.5), followed by those with high frequency (12.1 ± 8.5), medium frequency (10.6 ± 8.0), low frequency (9.1 ± 7.1), and lowest in nonmigraine controls (6.6 ± 5.9), with a significant trend in frequency (P trend < .001); similar results were obtained for HADS scores. BDI and HADS scores were independently related to high-frequency episodic and chronic migraine frequency and to poor sleep quality. The relationship between BDI score and migraine frequency was present in both aura-present (P trend = .001) and aura-absent subgroups (P trend = .029).

Conclusion: Higher migraine frequency, either with or without auras, correlated with higher symptom scores of anxiety and depression.

Keywords: anxiety; depression; frequency; headache; migraine.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression* / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Headache / epidemiology
  • Headache / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology