Migraine and Mental Health in Women


Migraine currently affects over 15 per cent of the European population and creates substantial impairment in functioning, ranking 2nd in the list of years lived with disability. The condition is most prevalent amongst the female population. It is estimated that migraine over the life course affects women 3 to 4 times more frequently than men.

Women also experience more severe attacks than men, and MRI findings have confirmed differences between the brain structure of females and
males with migraine. This gender disparity is thought to be partly driven by hormonal factors, such as fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone. Hormonal treatments and menopause can also lead to a worsening of migraine symptoms in women. Additionally, oestrogen administration in transgender women can exacerbate migraine development and symptoms.

Of concern, is the strong co-morbidity association of migraine with mental health conditions. Specifically, migraines are strongly associated with depression and anxiety, with individuals affected by migraine being 2 to 10 times more likely to experience a mood disorder compared to the general population. More than 50 per cent of individuals with migraine will also meet the criteria for an anxiety condition at some point in their life. Mental health conditions are also risk factors for the transition from episodic to chronic migraine.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that migraine can have a strong psychological toll on women’s well-being and mental health. Women most often develop their migraine symptoms in their 30s, a time when they might have to deal with childcare duties, growing career responsibilities, and gender-based discrimination, which can create additional stress and impact their mood.

Given that mental health conditions are known to disproportionately affect the female population, it is important to address the relationship between
mental health conditions and migraine, particularly for women where research is lacking.



Through the proposed project, GAMIAN-Europe will aim to achieve the following:

  • Explore and raise awareness of the link between migraine and mental health in individuals, in particular
    women including those who identify as women
  • Understand the gender-specific challenges of this co-morbidity and its overall impacts on women’s quality of life
  • Explore current care and treatment experiences
  • Develop a set of recommendations that will be put forward to governments, to advocate for better care of women
    who suffer from this co-morbidity

If you are interested in supporting or collaborating on this project, please contact us at secretariat@gamian.eu


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