Conference Coverage

How Does Migraine Affect a Patient’s Relationships?

Compared with episodic migraine, chronic migraine is more likely to have detrimental effects on family life.


SAN FRANCISCO—Patients with chronic migraine are significantly more likely than those with episodic migraine to report that headaches contribute to relationship problems and have a detrimental effect on family life, researchers said at the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society. Negative effects on family life include a delay in having children and having fewer children.

Dawn C. Buse, PhD

Migraine can detract from many aspects of family life and affect all members of the patient’s family. Dawn C. Buse, PhD, Clinical Professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York, and colleagues analyzed data from the Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes (CaMEO) study to understand the effects of episodic and chronic migraine on a person’s relationships and family life.

An Analysis of CaMEO Data

The CaMEO study is a prospective, longitudinal, web-based survey designed to characterize the impact of migraine, among other objectives, in a systematic US sample of people meeting modified ICHD-2R criteria. A total of 19,891 respondents met study criteria, including criteria for migraine, and were invited to complete the Family Burden Module (FBM), which assessed the impact, perception, and emotions related to living with migraine among people with migraine and their family members.

Dr. Buse and colleagues presented the results of migraineurs’ responses to the FBM regarding relationships with spouses or significant others and relationships with children living at home. The investigators stratified migraineurs by episodic migraine (ie, those with fewer than 14 headache days per month) and chronic migraine (ie, those with 15 or more headache days per month). Migraineurs were asked about their current relationship status (ie, in a current relationship or not, living together or not). Questions evaluated how headaches had affected past or current relationships with Likert-type response options that corresponded to degrees of disagreement or agreement. Dr. Buse’s group analyzed items by relationship status, episodic or chronic migraine status, and gender.

Women and Men Were Affected Similarly

In all, 13,064 respondents provided valid data. Of this population, 11,938 (91.4%) had episodic migraine and 1,126 (8.6%) had chronic migraine. Of those not currently in a relationship (n = 3,189), respondents with chronic migraine were significantly more likely to indicate that headaches had contributed to relationship problems (37.0%), compared with patients with episodic migraine (15.0%). Of those in a relationship but not living together (n = 1,323), 43.9% of respondents with chronic migraine indicated that headaches were causing relationship concerns or were preventing a closer relationship, such as moving in together or getting married, compared with 15.8% of patients with episodic migraine. The responses were similar among men (18.0%) and women (17.8%).

About 47% of respondents with chronic migraine reported that headaches have caused one or more previous relationship to end or have other problems, compared with 18.2% of respondents with episodic migraine. Headache contributions to relationship problems (ie, breakup or other difficulties) were similar among men (20.6%) and women (19.9%).

Of those in a relationship and living together (n = 8,127), 78.2% of respondents with chronic migraine agreed that they would be a better partner if they did not have headaches, compared with 46.2% of respondents with episodic migraine. Furthermore, 9.6% of patients with chronic migraine had delayed having children or had fewer children, compared with 2.6% of patients with episodic migraine. The researchers observed no differences between men and women.

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