Descriptive Features and Causal Attributions of Headache in an Australian Community


Address all correspondence to Dr. Ephrem Fernandez, Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX 75275-0442.


The reported characteristics and causes of headache differ across individuals and between groups. Such differences are of interest from an epidemiological point of view. This study set out to identify the main descriptive features and causal attributions of headache within an Australian urban community. A sample of 261 subjects reporting headache volunteered to participate in the survey. Subjects completed a self-report questionnaire for assessing demographic variables, headache parameters (intensity, duration, etc), headache medication habits, and perceived causes of one's headache (as in the UK headache survey by Blau, 1990). Results revealed that the typical headache sufferer was a middle-aged employed individual. Migraine versus tension headache were equivalent in number, and on the average, subjects experienced moderate intensity, day-long headaches that recurred about nine times per month. With regard to causal attributions, the prevalence of headaches due to mental stress was higher than that due to any other single stimulus (eg, noise, exercise), and alcohol was the most frequent dietary cause of headache. These findings are generally consistent with those from previous surveys, although some interesting departures emerge which may be accounted for by demographic differences in the populations studied.