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Headaches are linked to suicide attempts

PEOPLE with severe headaches may be more likely to attempt suicide, according to a US study of more than 1,000 people.

A number of studies over the years have found that people with migraines tend to have a higher suicide rate than those without.

But it has not been clear if this is related specifically to the "biology of migraines," said Naomi Breslau of Michigan State University, who led the study.

"We haven't known if it was the migraines or the pain more generally," Breslau said, though her findings, published in the journal Headache, don't prove that headaches caused the suicide attempts.

The study followed nearly 1,200 adults. About 500 of them were migraine sufferers, while 151 had severe headaches that were not migraines. The rest were free of serious headaches and served as a comparison.


Migraines have distinct features, such as nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, and throbbing pain on one side of the head only.

Over two years, almost 9pc of migraine sufferers said they'd tried to kill themselves, as did 10pc of those with severe non-migraine headaches. That compared with a rate of just over 1pc in the comparison group.

"We're ruling out that it's only migraine that's related to suicide risk," Breslau said.

Researchers said certain brain chemicals, including serotonin, are thought to be involved in severe headaches, and dysfunction in those chemicals has also been linked to suicide risk.