I should have been skeptical as well as astonished by the study finding that women with severely disabling migraine and other severe symptoms have a 32 times greater risk of depression — because it’s not accurate.
The Washington Post reported: “The women with a diagnosis of severely disabling migraine had a 32-fold increased risk of major depression if they also reported other severe symptoms.” It did not include that this was only the case for participants with chronic migraine.
The key points to note:
These findings are specifically about migraine, not chronic headache in general.
Chronic is defined as having headaches 15 or more days per month.
Severe disability refers to a score on the Headache Impact Test-6 of 60 or higher. For reference, today my HIT-6 score was 64. (It’s an interesting test that only takes a couple minutes. If you don’t want to register, use BugMeNot for a user name and password.)
Other severe symptoms refers to a participant’s score on Patient Health Questionnaire-15, a test of physical symptoms, like nausea, indigestion, dizziness, fatigue, back pain and trouble sleeping.
So, women in this study who had migraine (not headaches in general) that was chronic and had severe physical symptoms were 32 times more likely to have major depression. It’s important to note that the study didn’t take medication use into account. Whether the participants were taking antidepressants or not would affect the results.
For more, accurate findings from the study, see Migraine Linked to Greater Risk for Major Depression, Chronic Physical Symptoms, from Medscape. (You’ll need a password, which you can get from BugMeNot.)
Thanks to Dr. Christina Peterson for pointing out the error in my original post on the topic. She provided me with a wealth of information on the study and many other resources on headache and depression. As always, I value her input, which makes The Daily Headache a better blog.