Childhood trauma may be predictor of adult headaches, researchers find

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Research published in the journal Neurology shows that people who experienced trauma as children or adolescents are 48 percent more likely to experience severe and recurrent headaches than those who did not experience trauma in their early years.

The finding came from analyzing data from 28 studies, involving 154,739 people.

Overall, nearly a third of participants (31 percent) reported experiencing at least one traumatic event before the age of 18, and 16 percent had been diagnosed with primary headache disorder as adults, meaning their headaches ( such as migraines, tension or cluster headaches) are the main problem, rather than a symptom of an underlying disease or condition.

The researchers categorized traumatic events as based on threat (such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, witnessing or being threatened by violence, and serious family conflict) or based on hardship (including neglect, financial hardship, parental separation, divorce, or death ). and living in a household with mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse). Physical abuse, sexual abuse and exposure to domestic violence were the most commonly reported traumas.

Of those who had experienced at least one traumatic event in childhood, 26 percent were subsequently diagnosed with primary headaches, compared to 12 percent of those who had not experienced trauma.

As the number of traumatic events a child or adolescent experiences increased, so did the likelihood that they would develop headaches later in life. For example, those who had experienced four or more traumatic events were more than twice as likely to have a headache disorder. Also, certain traumas – physical or sexual abuse and neglect – were associated with a greater risk of headaches than other types of trauma.

The study found a link between childhood trauma and adult headache disorder, rather than direct evidence that one led to the other. But the researchers wrote that trauma experienced as a child or adolescent “are important risk factors for primary headache disorders in adulthood,” which one of the researchers described in a statement from the American Academy of Neurology as “a risk factor that we cannot ignore.” .”

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which briefly examines the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available via the hyperlinks.

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