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Childhood Disorders Predict Risk of Headaches in Adulthood
Posted March 2002
Neurology Reviews, Feb. 2002, p. 23

NEW YORK CITY, Dec. 21 (Reuters Health) - Anxiety symptoms in childhood are tied to an increased risk of migraines in adulthood, while neck or back injuries in childhood are predictive of future tension-type headaches, according to a report published in the January Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

Dr. Karen Waldie and Dr. R. Poulton, from the Universities of Auckland and Otago, respectively, in New Zealand, used International Headache Society criteria to determine the headache status of 979 subjects at 26 years of age. These findings were then correlated with the subjects’ past medical and psychological histories.

The researchers found that 7.2%, 11.1%, and 4.3% of subjects met criteria for migraine headache, tension-type headaches, and combined migraine/tension-type headaches, respectively. Risk factors for migraine included childhood anxiety symptoms, anxiety disorders in adolescence/young adulthood, and stress reactivity personality trait at 18 years of age. Maternal headache was linked to an increased risk of migraine as well as an increased risk of combined headache.

No significant psychological correlates of tension-type headaches were identified, but a history of neck or back injury before 13 years of age was tied to an increased risk of tension-type headaches, the authors noted. Women with both a childhood history of headache and anxiety disorder at 18 and 21 years of age were nearly three times as likely to develop a combined headache than women without this history.

A history of perinatal complications, neurologic problems, or mild traumatic head injury had no bearing on headache status at 26 years of age, the investigators stated.

There has been some controversy regarding whether migraine and tension-type headaches are separate clinical entities. In the opinion of Drs. Waldie and Poulton, the current findings, which demonstrate distinct development pathways for each, tend to support the view that they are separate disorders.

Jneurol Neurosung Psychiatry. 2002;72:86-92.