Differential Prevalence Rates for Headaches: A Function of Stress and Social Support?

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Abstract

SYNOPSIS

A recent study reported a very high headache prevalence rate for psychology undergraduate students attending a North American University. Reported here are the results of administering the same questionnaire to 711 students enrolled in the first year undergraduate psychology program at the University of Western Australia. The two studies produced dramatically different findings. The prevalence of regular headaches was 2.6 to 3.6 times as high at the North American University compared to its Australian counterpart. The average headache experienced by students attending the North American University was significantly more intense and of longer duration than the average headache experienced by students attending the Australian University. The possible causes of the differential rates were discussed, and it was suggested that the explanation lay in differences in stressors and factors that mediate the stress response. Specifically, the higher prevalence of headaches at the North American University was attributed to a greater incidence of stressors (particularly examinations), and of relatively deficient social support systems.

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