Although there is a significant association between preexisting depression and later onset of chronic headache, the extent to which other preexisting mental disorders are associated with subsequent onset of headache in the general population is not known. Also unknown is the extent to which these associations vary by gender or by life course. We report global data from the WHO's World Mental Health surveys (n = 52,095), in which, by means of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview-3.0, 16 mental disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, were retrospectively assessed in terms of lifetime prevalence and age of onset. Frequent or severe headaches were assessed using self-reports. After adjustment for covariates, survival models showed a moderate but consistent association between preexisting mood (odds ratios [ORs] = 1.3-1.4), anxiety (ORs = 1.2-1.7), and impulse-control disorders (ORs = 1.7-1.9) and the subsequent onset of headache. We also found a dose-response relationship between the number of preexisting mental disorders and subsequent headache onset (OR ranging from 1.9 for 1 preexisting mental disorder to 3.4 for ≥5 preexisting mental disorders). Our findings suggest a consistent and pervasive relationship between a wide range of preexisting mental disorders and the subsequent onset of headaches. This highlights the importance of assessing a broad range of mental disorders, not just depression, as specific risk factors for the subsequent onset of frequent or severe headaches. Perspective This study shows that there is a temporal association between a broad range of preexisting mental disorders and the subsequent onset of severe or frequent headaches in general population samples across the world.
- headache onset
- preexisting mental disorders