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Low Income Linked to Higher Migraine Rates

It is well known that migraine is more common among individuals with lower incomes. Recently, scientists confirmed this understanding, but also learned that the remission of migraine is equally likely at all income levels.

This is an important finding, the authors said, and runs counter to long-held beliefs.

“If the stresses of low income were the sole determinant, we would expect low-income people to be less likely to stop having migraines,” said lead study author Walter F. Stewart, PhD. “It’s possible that the start of the disease may have a different cause than the stopping of the disease.”

The study, conducted at Sutter Health in Northern California, included 162,705 people. Researchers found that income levels made a large difference in rates of migraine.

Among women ages 25 to 34, 20% of those from households with high incomes ($60,000 or more) suffered from migraine, compared to 29% of those with middle incomes and 37% of those with low incomes (below $22,500). For men in that age range, 5% in high-income households had migraine, compared to 8% in the middle income levels and 13% with low incomes. However, these differences disappeared when evaluating rates of remission, which is common among migraineurs.

“New evidence from this study shows that a higher percentage of people have migraine in low income groups because more people get migraine, not because people in lower income groups have migraine for a longer period of time,” Dr. Stewart said. “Because the remission rate does not differ by income, it means that the duration of time that people have migraine is not different by income level.”

A long-standing theory about migraine is that the disorder causes people to function poorly, thereby forcing migraineurs into lower income levels. Based on the current results, that is not an accurate explanation, Dr. Stewart said. He also noted that the findings from this study might lead to important clues about migraine prevention.

Additionally, the study found that people in the low-income group were more likely than those with higher incomes to have extreme migraine pain and severe disability, such as missed work or school, because of their migraine attacks.

The National Headache Foundation provided support for this study, which appeared online Aug. 29 in the journal Neurology.



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