Adapted from Westergaard et al Cephalalgia 23 June 2021
People with a history of chronic headache are significantly more likely to have poor social support and loneliness than those without a headache history.
Other chronic illnesses, mental illness and indeed death, are also more common when a person lacks social relationships.
This study was undertaken in Denmark in over 55 thousand people.
2.7% of people reported chronic headache and in 66% of these medication over use was a major factor. Poor social support was cited by 20 % of the participants who did not have chronic headache and in almost 37% of those who did.
Loneliness was reported by almost 8% of the people without headache and in almost 24% of those who did have chronic headache.
Stress was reported by 24% of those with no headache and in almost 61% of those who did.
The researchers did not differentiate between different headache diagnoses such as migraine and tension headaches.
My comment: As a GP, I was surprised that only 2.7% of the population said they had chronic headache, because it feels like a lot more in the surgery. It is a very common presentation to GPs. I can understand why poor social support could make stress more difficult to bear and produce headaches, and I can also see that people with headaches may want to limit social interaction. What doctors don’t tend to do is to look at improving social interaction as a means of ameliorating headache in patients.