Headache complaints associated with psychiatric comorbidity in a population-based sample


Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research




The objective of the present study was to determine the frequency at which people complain of any type of headache, and its relationship with sociodemographic characteristics and psychiatric comorbidity in São Paulo, Brazil. A three-step cluster sampling method was used to select 1,464 subjects aged 18 years or older. They were mainly from families of middle and upper socioeconomic levels living in the catchment area of Instituto de Psiquiatria. However, this area also contains some slums and shantytowns. The subjects were interviewed using the Brazilian version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 1.1. (CIDI 1.1) by a lay trained interviewer. Answers to CIDI 1.1 questions allowed us to classify people according to their psychiatric condition and their headaches based on their own ideas about the nature of their illness. The lifetime prevalence of "a lot of problems with" headache was 37.4% (76.2% of which were attributed to use of medicines, drugs/alcohol, physical illness or trauma, and 23.8% attributed to nervousness, tension or mental illness). The odds ratio (OR) for headache among participants with "nervousness, tension or mental illness" was elevated for depressive episodes (OR, 2.1; 95%CI, 1.4-3.4), dysthymia (OR, 3.4; 95%CI, 1.6-7.4) and generalized anxiety disorder (OR, 4.3; 95%CI, 2.1-8.6), when compared with patients without headache. For "a lot of problems with" headaches attributed to medicines, drugs/alcohol, physical illness or trauma, the risk was also increased for dysthymia but not for generalized anxiety disorder. These data show a high association between headache and chronic psychiatric disorders in this Brazilian population sample.

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