New Study Finds High Incidence of Depression and Anxiety Among People with Migraine

A recent Healthline survey conducted across 483 people in the U.S. living with migraine found that almost half of all people living with migraine experience depression and anxiety, versus 18 percent of the general population, as reported by Mental Health America. This incidence is slightly lower in people living with episodic migraine compared to those with chronic migraine (as shown in the graph below), but is still significantly higher than the overall population.

Addressing mental health issues continues to be an unmet need among people living with chronic conditions, and presents an opportunity for migraine brands looking to treat people holistically and ensure positive patient outcomes.

Mental Health Comorbidities Present a Pain Point for People Living with Migraine

Healthline also conducted interviews in support of the survey, to understand what people living with migraine are going through. One individual summed up her struggle as follows: “Migraines and depression are a tag team I’m up against.”

People Living with Migraine Are Searching for Treatments for Migraine AND Mental Health

The survey found that 80 percent of people living with chronic migraine are willing to try anything to prevent or reduce migraine attacks. Combine that with the high coexistence of anxiety with migraine, it is not surprising that Healthline researchers found that the migraine article with the highest engagement from the past year was about medical marijuana for chronic pain, anxiety and migraine (102.2K social engagements), according to BuzzSumo.

People with migraine are turning to search and social in their quest for new solutions, using search to answer specific questions, and social to connect and ‘discover’ what’s out there. The willingness to try anything in terms of medications and home remedies, such as potato slices soaked in alcohol, Vicks Vaporub, and earrings, was found to be the biggest theme on social. And two out of three people with migraine said that online research has empowered them to make more informed treatment decisions about their condition.

High Quality of Life Disruption Caused by Migraine

The survey also uncovered the huge impact that living with migraine has on their relationships and lives, with 53 percent of people living with migraine (both chronic and episodic) worrying that their migraine is a burden to their family.

Interplay Between Migraine and Mental Health

In interviews with experts, Healthline learned that disability and lower quality of life are worse when people living with chronic migraine have depression or an anxiety disorder. Some even report worsening headache symptoms after an episode of depression.

While the exact connection between chronic migraine and major depression and anxiety isn’t fully understood, there’s clear evidence that the pain and challenge of a life with migraine can exacerbate depression, anxiety, and stress, and vice versa: that stress and anxiety can trigger a migraine, and that depression can make migraine attacks worse.

How Pharma Brands Can Help

Even though pharma brands treat physiological aspects of migraine, there’s an opportunity to address mental health needs and support the “whole person” in order to be a better ally for the patient, and also to improve the outcomes associated with their medications. The following are a few ways that pharma can help:

  1. Value: A content gap exists in addressing the mental health conditions that many people face when living with migraine. The needs of this audience are multifaceted. Pharma brands should focus on supporting the whole person, either through original content creation or by partnering with trusted publishers or third parties who can approach the subject in a balanced and professional yet relatable way.
  2. Social Support: People with migraine are active on social media, and we know that people with depression use social media as a way of coping with isolation and loneliness. Pharma brands should lean into these conversations and listen. Social is a powerful insights generator that gives you a relevant language to address real consumer pain points. Check out migraine influencers like @MyMigraineStory, @MyMigraineLife, and @TheMigraineGirl to get the real experience.
  3. Medical Care: Due to the connection between chronic migraine and major depression and anxiety, pharma brands should educate doctors to screen those with migraine for depression and anxiety.

Healthline’s research on migraine included proprietary survey research, patient interviews, expert interviews, and social listening

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