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Keywords:

  • adolescence;
  • headache;
  • pain;
  • psychological symptoms;
  • functional disability

Background.—The psychosocial impact of headache combined with other pains has previously been insufficiently investigated.

Objective.— The present study examined the prevalence of headache, its comorbidity with other pains and psychosocial impact among adolescents.

Methods.— 793 adolescents in a sample recruited from 8 schools in the middle of Sweden were assessed.

Results.—Forty-five percent of the adolescents reported ongoing pain during assessment and more than half of the adolescents reported at least one frequent pain during the previous 6 months. The most common pain among girls was headache (42%), but for boys muscle pain (32%) was most prevalent. Number of pains and perceived pain disability were also higher among girls than boys. One-third of the headache sufferers had headache only, while one-third reported one other frequent pain and the others had at least two other frequent pains. Overall, adolescents with frequent headaches had higher levels of anxiety or depressive symptoms, in addition to functional disability and usage of analgesic medication. Frequent headache sufferers reported more problems in everyday life areas than those with infrequent headaches.

Conclusions.—It is recommended that adolescents suffering from recurrent headaches routinely should be asked about the presence of other pains, anxiety and depressive symptoms, medication usage, in addition to psychosocial consequences in their everyday life activities. Longitudinal research is also needed to delineate causal relationships between psychosocial factors and recurrent pains, in particular regarding possible sex differences.