Stress in migraine: personality-dependent vulnerability, life events, and gender are of significance

  • Kerstin Hedborg Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Health and Caring Sciences, University of Gävle, Sweden; and Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Ulla Maria Anderberg Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Social Medicine, Uppsala University, Sweden; and Department of Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Carin Muhr Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden
Keywords: Gender, life event, migraine, personality, stress


Background and aim. The individual's experiences of stress as well as constitutional factors, including high neuroticism and female gender, are known determinants for migraine. The present aim was to further elucidate factors of personality and stress, including life events, in relation to gender in migraine.

Methods. A cross-sectional study was performed on 150 persons, 106 women and 44 men, suffering from at least two migraine attacks a month. All obtained a doctor-defined migraine diagnosis based on a structured face-to-face interview concerning their health situation and current and prior stress. All of them also answered validated questionnaires regarding personality traits (SSP), life events, and perceived ongoing stress.

Results. The personality trait inventory showed high mean scores for stress susceptibility and low mean scores for aggressiveness and adventure seeking, both for women and for men, as well as high mean scores for psychic and somatic anxiety in women. Stress susceptibility, the overall most deviant trait, correlated strikingly with current level of stress in both sexes. In women, stress susceptibility also correlated strongly with experiences of negative life events. Tension-type headache, anxiety, and depression were approximately twice as prevalent in women compared to men.

Conclusions. The present study confirms previous research, showing that stress is an important factor in migraine. Stress susceptibility, life events, and concomitant psychosomatic illnesses should be considered important when evaluating individuals with migraine, and gender aspects need to be taken into account.


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How to Cite
Hedborg K., Anderberg U. M., & Muhr C. (2011). Stress in migraine: personality-dependent vulnerability, life events, and gender are of significance. Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, 116(3), 187–199.
Original Articles