The journal Cephalalgia – the scientific publication of the International Society of Headaches – has just published a study by members of the Headache Study Group of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) of the Vall D'Hebron University Hospital, whose Objective was to evaluate the prevalence of a headache among the Spanish adolescent population. Carried out among more than 1,500 students aged between 12 and 18 and belonging to several institutes in Catalonia, the study also sought to analyze the most frequent types of headache in this population group as well as the relationship of their headaches with comorbidities and the lifestyle of teenagers.
"Adolescence is a decisive period for neurodevelopment because in this period the brain has a very high neuroplasticity to adapt its structure and functions in response to the demands, experiences and physiological changes of the environment. Therefore, the impact of what happens to the brain during these years can cause neuroplastic changes with long-term consequences", explains Patricia Pozo Rosich, coordinator of the Headache Study Group of the Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN). "However, while adolescence is a crucial period for some primary headaches, there is very little information about the prevalence and impact of a headache in adolescents. We wanted to do this study to have a better understanding of these aspects and to change the impact of headaches on adults.
According to this study, 30.5% of adolescents suffer from recurrent headaches, with migraines being the most common headache in this population group (11.3% of those interviewed). In addition, nearly 33% of adolescents with a headache had at least one episode per week and a little over 44% showed some degree of disability related to their headaches. However, more than 73% of those interviewed who suffer from headaches do not have a diagnosis.
The study also notes that headaches are significantly more common in girls (35.1% versus 25.5% of adolescent males), as well as among adolescents with poor sleep habits (36.6% versus 27.6%), among those who perform a lower physical activity and in adolescents who do not eat breakfast (37.3% versus 28.4%), smoke (10.5% against 4.9%), or consume caffeine (30.9% versus 24.7%). On the contrary, no differences were found in the school's performance of adolescents, the educational level of the parents, or the environment or the educational system. However, 57% of students with recurrent headaches had a family history.
On the other hand, the most significant comorbidities associated with a headache include allergies, asthma, chronic pain (in addition to headache) and mental and behavioral health problems.