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The family impact of migraine: population-based studies in the USA and UK


Richard B. Lipton MD, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Neurology, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA. E-mail:


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Despite an extensive body of research on the individual burden of migraine, few studies have examined its impact on the family. We aimed to assess the impact of migraine on family life both from the perspective of those with migraine and from the perspective of their partners. A validated computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) identified 574 people with migraine from a population sample of 4007 in mainland England, and 568 from 4376 in Philadelphia County, in the USA. Migraine cases with six or more migraine attacks per year and living as married with partners were asked, along with their partners, to participate in this study. In a follow-up interview, questions were asked of the proband (i.e. subject identified with migraine in the survey) about the impact of migraine. Similar questions were also asked of the probands’ partners regarding the impact of the proband's migraine on their participation in social, family and leisure activities and on family relationships. The samples from the two countries showed similar characteristics, and were combined. Of 389 people with migraine living with a household partner, 85% reported substantial reductions in their ability to do household work and chores, 45% missed family social and leisure activities, and 32% avoided making plans for fear of cancellation due to headaches. One half believed that, because of their migraine, they were more likely to argue with their partners (50%) and children (52%), while majorities (52–73%) reported other adverse consequences for their relationships with their partner and children, and at work. A third (36%) believed they would be better partners but for their headaches. Participating partners (n = 100) partly confirmed these findings: 29% felt that arguments were more common because of headaches and 20–60% reported other negative effects on relationships at home. Compared with subjects who did not have migraine regarding their work performance, a statistically significantly higher proportion of migraine partners were unsatisfied with work demands placed on them (P = 0.02), with their level or responsibilities and duties (P = 0.02), and with their ability to perform (P = 0.001). Results from this study show that the impact of migraine extends to household partners and other family members.