Childhood Trauma Could Influence Adult Headaches, Unveils Research

According to research published in the journal Neurology, individuals who experienced trauma during childhood or adolescence have a 48 percent higher likelihood of experiencing serious and recurrent headaches as adults compared to those who didn’t experience trauma in their early years. Click here for more details.

This finding is based on the analysis of data from 28 studies involving 154,739 people.

Overall, around 31 percent of the participants reported experiencing a traumatic event before the age of 18. Furthermore, 16 percent were diagnosed with a primary headache disorder as adults, indicating that their headaches (such as migraines, tension headaches, or cluster headaches) are the primary problem rather than a symptom of an underlying condition.

The researchers categorized traumatic events as threat-based (e.g., physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, witnessing or being threatened by violence, and serious family conflicts) or deprivation-based (including neglect, financial adversity, parents’ separation or divorce, death, and living in a household with mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse). Physical abuse, sexual abuse, and exposure to family violence were the most commonly reported traumas.

Among those who experienced at least one traumatic event during their youth, 26 percent were subsequently diagnosed with primary headaches, compared to 12 percent of those who hadn’t experienced trauma.

The odds of developing headaches later in life increased with the number of traumatic events a person experienced during childhood or adolescence. For instance, individuals who experienced four or more traumatic events were more than twice as likely to have a headache disorder. Additionally, certain traumas such as physical or sexual abuse and neglect were associated with a higher risk of headaches compared to other types of trauma.

It’s important to note that this study shows an association between trauma during youth and headache disorders in adulthood and not direct causation. However, the researchers assert that traumas experienced during childhood or adolescence are significant risk factors for developing primary headache disorders in adulthood, which was emphasized in a statement released by the American Academy of Neurology.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which provides statistical insights into health issues. For more information and relevant research, please follow the hyperlinks.


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