The unique role of stigma in migraine-related disability and quality of life

Headache. 2022 Nov;62(10):1354-1364. doi: 10.1111/head.14401. Epub 2022 Nov 2.


Background: Stigma is increasingly recognized as an important social feature of living with migraine.

Methods: Adults with migraine recruited from neurology offices completed the validated Stigma Scale for Chronic Illnesses 8-item version (SSCI-8); two outcome measures (the Migraine Disability Assessment [MIDAS] and the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire v 2.1 [MSQ]); and measures of allodynia (Allodynia Symptom Checklist [ASC-12]), pain cognition (Pain Catastrophizing Scale [PCS]), and psychiatric symptoms (Patient Reported Measurement Information System Anxiety [PROMIS-A] and Depression [PROMIS-D]). Pearson and Spearman correlations evaluated bivariate relationships, and linear (MSQ) and logistic (MIDAS Severe Disability, scores ≥21) regressions evaluated the unique variance associated with SSCI-8 beyond other study variables. Conditional process analysis evaluated mediation hypotheses between study variables.

Results: Participants (n = 121) reported levels of stigma on par with other chronic illnesses (SSCI-8 M = 53.0, standard deviation [SD] = 7.8), with 25/127 (19.6%) reporting clinically significant levels of stigma (SSCI-8 T-score ≥ 60). Higher SSCI-8 scores were associated with higher monthly headache day frequency (r = 0.35), MIDAS (ρ = 0.41), ASC-12 (r = 0.24, p < 0.01), PCS (r = 0.46), both PROMIS-A (r = 0.43) and D (r = 0.42), and lower MSQ subscale scores (Role Restriction r = -0.50; Role Prevention r = -0.48; Emotion Function r = -0.50), all ps <0.001 unless otherwise noted. The SSCI-8 contributed significantly beyond migraine symptoms and other psychological factors for MSQ Emotion Function (5% unique variance) and MIDAS Severe Disability (6% of unique variance). The SSCI-8 mediated relationships between headache frequency and the MSQ subscales and MIDAS Severe Disability. The PCS mediated relationships between the SSCI-8 and MSQ subscales. The PROMIS-D mediated relationships between the SSCI-8 and MSQ Role Restriction and MSQ Role Prevention.

Conclusions: Migraine stigma has medium to large associations with migraine outcomes and psychiatric symptoms and is independently associated with migraine disability and emotion-related quality of life. Migraine stigma is an important contributor to the relationship between headache frequency and migraine outcomes.

Keywords: ecological; migraine; quality of life; social; stigma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Headache / complications
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia / complications
  • Migraine Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Quality of Life* / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires