Half of Iraq Veterans with Migraines Also Have Depression

by Teri Robert, MyMigraineConnection Lead Expert

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In 2000, results of studies in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Netherlands showed that 47% of Migraineurs are affected by depression as compared to 17% of the general population. Dr. Richard B. Lipton, head of the U.S./U.K. study, commented,

"The studies capture not just the burden of Migraine during attack, but in between attacks. What people don't recognize is that those with Migraine attacks live in fear daily of not knowing when the next attack will be. Our study, taken together with the Dutch study, shows that people with Migraines have a reduced quality of life… It seems logical Migraine patients would be depressed because of their pain, but it goes the other way too -- depressed patients are more likely to have Migraine. We think the two disorders must have a common neurobiology." 1

In a 2003 article in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, Breslau et al concluded,

Major depression increased the risk for Migraine, and Migraine increased the risk for major depression. This bidirectional association, with each disorder increasing the risk for first onset of the other, was not observed in relation to other severe headaches.” 2

Now, research presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 59th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 28 – May 5, 2007, demonstrated that soldiers returning from combat in Iraq who have Migraine disease are more than twice as likely to also have symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression or anxiety than soldiers who do not have Migraines.

Major Jay C. Erickson, M.D., Ph.D., of the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, commented on the study,

“We believe this study is unique in two ways. It is the first to examine the co-occurrence of Migraine and psychiatric conditions in a military population. In addition, we think it may be the first study in any population to establish a link between Migraine and post-traumatic stress disorder."

The study involved 3,621 United States Army soldiers who were given a health screening questionnaire within 90 days after returning from one year of combat duty in Iraq. A total of 2,167 of the soldiers, or 60 percent, completed the questionnaire. Of those:

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