Migraine Burden Worsened by Stigma

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Migraines. Say the word in a group of people who don't have Migraine disease, and... Well, if you're here reading this, you probably know what happens all too often... sighs, eye rolling, people making comments that show them to be totally clueless.

At the 52nd annual scientific meeting of the American Headache Society (June, 2010), results of a study about Migraine and stigma were presented.

The Study:

Study background:

"Stigma is an established construct in the social sciences that describes an attribute, trait or disorder that is deeply discrediting and may elicit some form of community sanction. Research has shown many diseases, like HIV, mental illness, and cancer, can be highly stigmatizing, resulting in depression, anxiety, decreased quality of life, and disruption of social relationships. But stigma attaches to disease to varying degrees. To date, there has been no research on stigma in people with Migraine. This study will look at stigma in both chronic and episodic Migraine patients, in order to understand how stigma attaches to Migraine. This effort will ultimately aid in the development of public health strategies to combat the stigmatizing effects of Migraine."1

Study objective:

"To characterize stigma in patients with chronic and episodic Migraines."1

Study methods:

  • A survey was conducted with outpatients from the Jefferson Headache Center in Philadelphia.
  • There were 123 participants with chronic Migraine (CM) and 123 participants with episodic Migraine (EM).
  • Participants were assessed using the Stigma Scale for Chronic Illness (SSCI) and the Migraine Disability Scale (MIDAS). The (SSCI) is a  24-item survey used to assess stigma in persons with neurological disorders and for comparisons across disorders. SSCI measures issues such as how often people feel criticized, misunderstood or ostracized for having an illness.

Study results:

  • Participants with CM scored higher on the SSCI than participants with EM.
  • Participants with CM also scored significantly higher on the SSCI than a mixed panel of patients with chronic neurologic diseases; stroke, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s disease
  • MIDAS scores were much higher for CM (median score was 60) participants than for EM participants (median score was 18).
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