Life Event Stress and Headache Frequency Revisited


Address all correspondence to Mr. David J. Reynolds, Department of Psychology, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0376.


Life stress is found to be related to headache frequency in some studies, but not others. Research designs that find a relationship between the two tend to evaluate young subjects and employ large sample sizes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship between headache frequency and life stress, while considering gender and age differences that may be present in the relationship. In addition, as depression or presence of headache at the time of assessment may influence the report of headache frequency, an attempt to control for these factors was employed.

Several self-report measures of headache symptomatology, headache presence, depression, and life stress were completed by 1289 subjects. Negative life event stress was found to be modestly but significantly related to headache frequency. The relationship between the 2 variables was stronger for women than for men and, after the influence of depression and headache state was removed, the relationship between life stress and headache frequency remained significant only for women. In the oldest 10% of the sample, there was no evidence of a relationship between negative life event stress and headache frequency.