Is Migraine Different if Your Income is Low?

Just how much do economic problems impact migraine?  A new study is providing some fascinating answers…

We do know that economic status is a part of a complex web of factors that relate to migraine.  There is some evidence that children in lower income families are more likely to get migraine, for example (read Lower income = more migraine?.  You might also remember a poll we ran here back in 2010 showing that headache conditions had a large impact on job/career choices (read: Impact of Migraine/Cluster/Headache on Job Decisions

One of the most challenging questions is this:  Why are people with lower income more likely to have migraine?  Is it because migraine leads to a lower income?  Or does the lower income lead to migraine?  Or both?

A study of 162,705 people is providing some major clues.  Each person shared information such as: do you have migraine?  when did the symptoms appear?  what is your household income?

Is there more Migraine among lower income people?

Yes.  You can see the differences in the charts below:

Women with Migraine, by income

Men with Migraine, by income

The study also found that those with low incomes were likely to have more pain and more disability.

But some things are the same…

Now, here’s the interesting bit.  Remission rates were the same, no matter what the income.  In other words, more people had migraine disease among the lower income brackets.  But, once anyone had migraine, they were just as likely as anyone else to stop having symptoms (remission).  People with lower incomes do not seem to have migraine for a longer period of time.

Now, maybe you wondered if people with lower income were less likely to get treatment that works.  That still could be the case, especially considering that symptoms seem to be more severe for this group.  But when migraine went away, whether “naturally” or through treatment, it didn’t go away faster for those with higher incomes.

Researchers suggested that maybe different factors were involved at the start of migraine than at the remission of migraine.  At least, when it comes to economic factors.

This also questions just how much influence “low income stress” really has.  The author of the study, Dr. Walter F. Stewart, put it this way:

If the stresses of low income were the sole determinant, we would expect low-income people to be less likely to stop having migraines.  It’s possible that the start of the disease may have a different cause than the stopping of the disease.

For more, check out the study abstract here:  Migraine prevalence, socioeconomic status, and social causation, and this article from Science Daily:  Does Migraine Affect Income or Income Affect Migraine?

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4 comments… add one
  • Saara Oct 21, 2013

    Stress has something to do with migraines, especially chronic. Not having enough money is stressful, and not having enough or healthy food is also a contributor.

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