Relationship Between Migraine/Severe Headache and Chronic Health Conditions

woman with headache, migraine
woman with headache, migraine
Individuals with migraine or severe headaches may be more likely to have other chronic health conditions.

Individuals with migraine or severe headaches may be more likely to have other chronic health conditions, according to a study published in Pain Medicine.

In this cross-sectional study, data from the 2013 to 2015 National Health Interview Survey  (n=104,926 adults) were used to examine associations between migraine or severe headaches and chronic health conditions that included cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.

Individuals between 18 and 44 years (18.2%), women (20.1%), and individuals with some college education (17.6%) were groups with the greatest percentages of occurrence of migraine or severe headache (P <.0001). Adults with migraine had increased odds of reporting a single chronic health condition (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.7; 95% CI, 1.6-1.8), and had more than twice the odds of reporting ≥2 chronic health conditions (aOR 2.5; 95% CI, 2.3-2.8) compared with individuals without migraine or severe headache, according to multinomial modeling with the number of chronic health conditions as the dependent variable.

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Individuals with vs without severe headache or migraine were found to have a 2-fold increase in COPD, heart disease, and stroke, in multivariable models predicting the prevalence of each chronic health condition, after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, sex, survey year, and poverty index ratio (COPD: aOR, 2.8; 95% CI, 2.6–3.1; heart disease: aOR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.9–2.2; stroke: aOR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.9-2.4). The presence of severe headache or migraine was found to be associated with cancer (aOR, 1.4; 95% CI, 1.3–1.5), diabetes (aOR, 1.2; 95% CI, 1.1–1.3), and hypertension (aOR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.5–1.7).

“As this population-based study and other studies have found, chronic health conditions, particularly COPD, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke, co-occur in adults with migraine or severe headache. More research is necessary to explain the biological underpinnings of these associations and identify the shared pathways,” concluded the study authors/


Minen MT, Weissman J, Tietjen GE. The relationship between migraine or severe headache and chronic health conditions: a cross-sectional study from the National Health Interview Survey 2013-2015 [published online May 25, 2019]. Pain Med. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnz113