A  study conducted by The University of Helsinki, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and University College London, examined whether work stress, as indicated by the effort-reward imbalance models, predicts onset of newly diagnosed migraine in a cohort of female public sector employees.

The effort-reward imbalance model is a more recent stress model that focuses on a negative trade-off between ‘costs’ and ‘gains’ at work. According to this model, lack of reciprocity between effort spent on work and rewards received in return in terms of money, esteem, security and career opportunities leads to emotional distress that increases the risk of negative health consequences.

In the population studied, 6.2% of the new migraine cases detected were attributable to high effort-reward imbalance, suggesting a modest, rather than strong association between effort-reward imbalance and migraine. Although the increased risk was small, the fact that this potentially modifiable exposure is common means that attempts to find a better balance between personal efforts and rewards gained from work could reduce the burden of migraine in the workplace. However, this will be the case only if the association between effort-reward imbalance and migraine is causal.

These results provide a justification for further research to determine whether effort-reward imbalance may function as a potentially modifiable risk factor for incident migraine.

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