Trauma in childhood was associated with headaches in adults

Canadian scientists examined the relationship between childhood trauma and primary headaches in adults. The earlier in life an adverse event occurred, the higher the risk subsequently.

A team of researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, conducted a meta-analysis of observational studies on the relationship between childhood trauma and primary headache in adults. The results were published on the Medscape website and in the journal Neurology.

The most commonly reported adverse childhood events were physical abuse (77%), sexual abuse (73%), and domestic violence (38%). Compared with controls without childhood abuse, people who experienced at least one adverse childhood event had a higher incidence of primary headache after age 21 years: odds ratio (OR) = 1.48. The strength of the association with primary headache increased as a function of the number of negative childhood events.

The researchers also confirmed that threat of violence and emotional deprivation were independently associated with primary headache, indicating that these negative events may differentially influence neurodevelopment and the occurrence of primary headache.

The meta-analysis included 28 observational studies involving 154,739 people from 19 countries that assessed the relationship between one or more adverse childhood events and primary headache (including migraine, tension-type headache, cluster headache, and chronic severe headache) at age over 21 years old. Outcome estimates, number of events in each group, and covariates were extracted from each study. Adverse childhood events were categorized according to the nature of the trauma (physical, emotional, sexual abuse) and emotional deprivation (neglect, domestic substance abuse). The primary analysis calculated odds ratios for headache among those who had experienced one or more adverse childhood events compared with those without such exposure.

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