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Keywords:

  • migraine;
  • tension headache;
  • International Headache Society criteria

This study presents the first account of the racial differences in headache prevalence and characteristics in the Singapore population. A questionnaire was administered to 2096 individuals from a randomized sample of 1400 households to test the hypothesis that race was independently correlated with headache diagnosis and morbidity. The overall lifetime prevalence of headaches in the study population was 82.7%; this did not vary between racial groups. The modal age of headache onset in all races was in the second decade and was similar in all races. Multivariate analysis showed that headache morbidity was independent of age, sex, income level, marital status, shift duties, and educational level, and correlated only with race and a positive family history of severe headache. Non-Chinese were more likely to suffer from severe headaches than Chinese, were more likely to seek medical attention, and were more likely to require medical leave for their symptoms. Non-Chinese had more migrainous headaches than Chinese, although characteristics of headache both groups experienced that were unrelated to severity differed only in a few aspects. We conclude that racial factors account for differences in headache classification, perception of headache severity and health-seeking behavior.