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Headache Repercussions Are Linked to Academic Performance

According to a recent study, headache is common among university students, and the more headache impacts a student—regardless of headache type, frequency or intensity—the more likely a student will suffer poor academic performance.

Researchers randomly selected 380 students at a Brazilian university, Mauricio de Nassau Faculty, for a cross-sectional study. Students provided information about their sociodemographics, life habits and headaches, which were classified according to the International Headache Classification. Students also completed the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) to determine the extent that headache affected their lives.

In the previous 12 months, 87.2% of students reported headache with 42.4% experiencing tension-type headache and 48.5 experiencing migraine. In all, 20.6% of those with headache reported some impact on their lives, measured according to the Headache Impact Test; 16.9% reported substantial impact and 32% very severe impact.

A previous study in the United States found no association between headache and absenteeism, and this study had the same result. However, researchers found a strong association between the effect that headache had on the students’ lives and increased absenteeism, regardless of headache type and characteristics.

“The greater the repercussion, the greater is the absenteeism,” wrote lead author Hugo R. Souza-e-Silva, MSc.

The authors also found a significant association between those students who had a substantial/very severe impact from headache—almost half in this study—and an increase in discipline issues, including failures.

“It is important to verify if headache is associated with a worse academic performance given that it has a high prevalence in this population and is a condition that can undergo abortive and prophylactic treatment,” Souza-e-Silva wrote. “A better understanding of the influence over academic performance could deliver a potential improvement to student well-being.”

Further study is needed to determine if prophylactic treatment of migraine might improve student performance, according to the authors.

The study appeared online Dec. 12 in Headache.

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