For many migraineurs, living with the disorder affects several aspects of their lives — from family relationships to quality of sleep. Now, studies from the United States and Canada show just how pervasive and far reaching those effects are.

In the U.S., a study of nearly 1,000 men and women with chronic migraine (headache 15 or more days per month) found that the condition impacts family relationships and activities, ranging from reduced time spent with partners and children to cancelled vacation plans.

“This study highlights the significant impact of chronic migraine, not only on the person with migraine, but on the entire family. Respondents reported missing both routine and special family events on a regular basis and feeling guilty and sad about how this affected their relationships with their spouses and children,” said Dawn C. Buse, PhD, the lead author of the study and the director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center and an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY.

  • Seventy-three percent of respondents thought they would be better spouses if they did not have chronic migraine.
  • Sixty-seven percent avoided sexual intimacy with their partners at times due to headache.
  • Fifty-nine percent reported they would be better parents if they did not have chronic migraine.
  • More than 60 percent said they became easily annoyed with their partners and children because of headache.
  • More than one-half of the participants reported that they had reduced participation or enjoyment on a family vacation due to headache in the past year, and 20 percent said they had cancelled or missed a family vacation completely.

The results from a large Canadian study also showed the far-reaching effects of migraine. In that study, which included more than 2 million people, more than one-quarter said they felt left out of daily activities; more than one-half said migraine prevented them from driving, and more than three-fourths said migraine affected their ability to get a good night’s sleep.

The findings were troubling to researchers.

“There’s some social isolation that could be occurring. It (migraine) may be limiting on people’s education and employment opportunities. That can have a long-term effect,” said author Pamela Ramage-Morin, a senior analyst in Ottawa.

The United States’ study has not yet been published, but was presented at the 56th annual meeting of the American Headache Society in June. The Canadian study was published by Canada’s Health Reports.