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Childhood Trauma, Especially Parental Domestic Violence, Raises the Risk of Migraine

While considerable research has focused on physiological or genetic reasons for migraine, researchers have known that some life experiences, particularly traumatic events in childhood, increase migraine risk.

Recently, Canadian researchers have found that as the range of traumatic experiences increases for a child, so does his or her risk of developing migraine.

boy-744486_1280“We found the more types of violence the individual had been exposed to during their childhood, the greater the odds of migraine. For those who reported all three types of adversities—parental domestic violence, childhood physical and sexual abuse—the odds of migraine were a little over 3 times higher for men and just under 3 times higher for women,” said Sarah Brennenstuhl, PhD, first author of the study and a member of the School of Social Work at the University of Toronto.

Investigators examined data from 12,638 women and 10,358 men age 18 and older from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health. The most surprising finding, they said, was that exposure to parental domestic violence greatly upped the odds for developing migraine.

“Even after accounting for variables including age, race, socioeconomic status, history of depression and anxiety, and childhood physical and sexual abuse, men and women who had witnessed parental domestic violence had 52% and 64% higher odds of migraine, respectively, compared to those without such a history,” said co-author Esme Fuller-Thomson, also of the university’s school of social work.

Researchers say their study did not determine that early adversities cause migraine, but they say it makes clear the need for further investigation into the long-term health of children who experience such trauma, particularly parental domestic violence.

The study appeared in the journal Headache.

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