Headache in Schoolchildren : Epidemiology, Pain Comorbidity and Psychosocial Factors

Abstract: Headache is the most frequently reported pain in children and is associated with missed schooldays, anxiety, depressive symptoms and various physical symptoms. A secular trend of increasing headache prevalence has been suggested. Few studies have focused on tension-type headache among children from the general population. The aims of this thesis were to describe the prevalence, incidence and prognosis of tension-type headache, migraine and overall headache in schoolchildren, to identify medical, psychological and social factors associated with these headache types, and to determine whether the prevalence of headache has increased over the last decades.In 1997, 1850 schoolchildren aged 7-15 years from the city of Uppsala participated in a questionnaire study and 1371 (74.1%) responded. Out of these, a randomly selected, stratified sample of 131 children and their parents were interviewed. Three years later, 122 children from the interview sample replied to an identical headache questionnaire.Compared with a similar study in 1955, a significantly lower proportion of schoolchildren reported no headache. The prevalence of tension-type headache increased with age and was significantly higher in girls than boys after the age of twelve. Similar age and gender differences were obtained for migraine. A higher proportion of girls reported frequent headache than boys. Children with headache, especially those with migraine, as well as their first-degree relatives suffered from other pains and physical symptoms more frequently than headache-free children and their first-degree relatives. Although the likelihood of experiencing the same headache diagnosis and symptoms at follow-up was high, about one fifth of children with migraine developed tension-type headache and vice versa. Female gender was a predictor of migraine and frequent headache a predictor of overall headache at follow-up. The estimated annual incidence for tension-type headache, migraine and overall headache was 81, 65 and 131 per 1000 children, respectively. In conclusion, the results indicate that headache has become increasingly common among schoolchildren over the last decades. Prevention and treatment of headache is particularly important for girls since they have high prevalence of headache, frequent headache episodes and a poor outcome. In children with headache, diagnoses and treatment should be reassessed regularly and other pains should be asked about and treated as well.