The Social Stigma of Migraine Headaches

An interesting study has been conducted by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University looking at the social stigma of migraine headaches. The study appears in PLOS ONE, January 16, 2013. The study was led by William B. Young a neurologist and he is quoted at saying

“When people treat my patients as if they are to blame because they have a severe, debilitating disease, they are contributing to the problem and making life harder for them.”

The researchers find that high levels of social stigma for migraine suffers is due to the impact of a chronic migraine of their work lives. Dr. Young says

“I don’t think people realize that it is not unusual for people with migraine to have severe headaches every day—to be so disabled that they are unable to work. This is what causes the stigma—the fact that people with severe migraine may not be able to work.”

The researchers compared results from 123 episodic migraine patients, 123 chronic migraine patients, and 62 epilepsy patients using a 24 item stigma scale for chronic illness.

The study showed that patients with chronic migraine had higher scores (54.0+/- 20.2) on the stigma scale than either episodic migraine (41.7 +/-14.8) or epilepsy patients (44.6 +/-16.3) (p<0.001). Further, those with chronic migraine have a greater inability to to work than those with epilepsy. In the headache clinic that Dr. Young has around 25% of his patients with chronic migraine are unable to hold a job.

Source: “The Social Stigma of Migraine Headaches: Worse Than Epilepsy, According to New Jefferson Study,” January 16, 2013,

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