The researchers surveyed 5,159 people age 21 to 71 for a period of two years, asking participants about stress levels and frequency of headaches. Analysis of the survey results revealed that an increase in stress was associated with an uptick in the number of headaches experienced each month.
Stress corresponded with an increase in all types of headaches, including migraines and types not easily classified, but participants who experienced tension-type headaches were most negatively affected by heightened stress levels.
"These results show that this is a problem for everyone who suffers from headaches and emphasize the importance of stress management approaches for people with migraine and those who treat them," study author Dr. Sara H. Schramm explained. "The results add weight to the concept that stress can be a factor contributing to the onset of headache disorders, that it accelerates the progression to chronic headache, exacerbates headache episodes, and that the headache experience itself can serve as a stressor."
Dr. Schramm and his colleagues at the University Hospital of University Duisburg-Essen in Germany said they controlled for other factors that can encourage more frequent headaches -- behaviors like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or frequently taking headache medicine.
The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia later this year.