Female sex, social impairment, and depressive symptoms represent potential predictors for short- and long-term prognosis in early adolescent patients with headaches, according to study findings published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

A total of 1266 patients between ages 26 and 28 (mean, 27.2±0.59) who participated in the Youth and Mental Health Study during early adolescence completed electronic questionnaires regarding long-term headache frequency and duration. 

The investigators also collected data on participants’ age, sex, parental divorce, number of friends, school absence, pain comorbidity, associated depressive symptoms, behavioral problems, and leisure-time impairment and their association with short- and long-term headache frequency. 

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At the extended follow-up, 8.4% of participants reported at least one headache per week, which categorized these patients as experiencing frequent headaches. Headache frequency and duration was significantly associated with daily or almost-daily headaches and headaches with the longest duration (6.9%) (χ2 [4]=16.14; P <.001). In addition, women reported a significantly higher frequency of headaches than men (12.7% vs 2.8%, respectively; χ2 [3]=46.55; P <.001].

A greater percentage of patients who reported frequent comorbid pain also reported higher headache frequency than patients with no accompanying comorbid pain (P <.001). Parental divorce, pain comorbidity at baseline, and impairment during leisure-time activities or socializing were associated with increased reports of frequent headaches compared with infrequent headaches (P <.001, P <.001, and P <.05, respectively]. 

Depressive symptoms also predicted long-term prognosis in the cohort.

The use of self-reports to retrospectively identify headache frequencies and durations represented a potential limitation of the study.

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Findings from this study may help “improve the identification of individuals experiencing persistent frequent headaches over extended periods,” the researchers concluded.

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Larsson B, Sigurdson JF, Sund AM. Long-term follow-up of a community sample of adolescents with frequent headaches. J Headache Pain. 2018;19(1):79.

This article originally appeared on Neurology Advisor