Migraine In America Findings Published in Journal of Pain Research

August 19, 2015
By Amrita Bhowmick, VP Community Development

Health Union recently had the unique opportunity to collaborate with Amy Wachholtz, PhD and Christopher Malone, from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to publish findings from the 2012 Migraine In America study. Their interest in understanding the psychological and social impact of migraine was particularly exciting to me, as we at Health Union know first-hand how severely migraine can affect the lives of our community members. Increasing overall awareness regarding this impact is critical for ensuring that individuals with migraine receive the best possible care.

The primary objective of the Migraine In America study was to better understand how the experience of migraine affects the social and psychological functioning of those living with the condition, including the impact on mental health and overall quality of life. The study also explored treatment patterns, including a variety of prescription and complementary and alternative therapies, and presence of comorbid conditions. A total of 2,735 individuals met the inclusion criteria, and 2,632 completed the survey. Recruitment occurred between May 15 and June 15, 2012. (Since 2012, Health Union has conducted Migraine In America surveys annually. Key findings from the most recent Migraine In America survey are published on Migraine.com.)

Not surprisingly, results showed that prescription and non-prescription pharmacological treatments are common, including use of both abortive and preventive medications. Non-pharmacological interventions, such as behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy have also been employed, with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, despite the variety of treatment approaches available, only 27% of respondents reported being “satisfied” with their current migraine treatment. Additionally, nearly half of respondents (45.5%) had avoided taking a prescribed migraine medication due to cost, and approximately three quarters reported (73.3%) withholding medication to save for later.

Depression and anxiety were found to be the most commonly reported comorbid conditions, at 63.8% and 60.4%, respectively. Chronic (non-headache) pain was also reported by 39.5% of respondents.

Migraine-associated stress and “negative life impact” was correlated with both length of time since the first onset of symptoms, and the number of symptoms experienced per month. Our findings suggest that migraine-associated stress negatively impacts social and professional areas even more strongly than a person’s emotional well-being.

By publishing these findings in the Journal of Pain Research, we hope to bring attention to the impact of migraine on a person’s mental health and overall quality of life among health care professionals, as this impact goes beyond the more obvious physical symptoms. Migraine practitioners must understand the personal experience of each individual in order to identify the appropriate treatment(s) to alleviate the social, biological, and psychological experience of migraine.

View the abstract and download the full, published article.