There is a well-known association between migraine and affective disorders, but the information is sparse concerning the prevalence of migraine in subgroups of the affective disorders. The present study was undertaken to investigate the prevalence of migraine in unipolar depressive, bipolar I and bipolar II disorders. Patients with major affective disorders (n = 62), consecutively admitted to an open psychiatric ward, were examined with a semi-structured interview based on DSM-IV diagnostic criteria, combined with separate criteria for affective temperaments. Diagnosis of unipolar and bipolar I disorders followed the DSM-IV criteria, while bipolar II disorder encompassed patients with either discrete hypomanic episodes or a cyclothymic temperament. Migraine was diagnosed according to IHS-criteria. Symptoms of migraine were found to be common in these patients, both in those with unipolar depression (46% prevalence of migraine) and in those with bipolar disorders (44% prevalence). Among the bipolar patients there was, however, a striking difference between the two diagnostic subgroups, with a prevalence of 77% in the bipolar II group compared with 14% in the bipolar I group (P = 0.001). These results support the contention that bipolar I and II are biologically separate disorders and point to the possibility of using the association of bipolar II disorder with migraine to study both the pathophysiology and the genetics of this affective disorder.