Financial worries are one of the top 10 causes of stress, but they may also be one of the biggest contributors to migraines, according to a study co-authored by researchers at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary, and the University of Manchester.
A Genetic Connection
Researchers identified a mutation in the CLOCK gene that increases the frequency of migraines triggered by stress. The CLOCK gene is associated with the sleep-wake cycle responsible for managing the body’s internal clock.
The study analyzed 2,349 people between the universities. Researchers looked at genetic variations in the CLOCK gene and the rate of migraines in participants.
Initial findings did not identify a definitive connection between the two factors.
Researchers then sent participants a questionnaire regarding their stress and emotional health.
Participants with the CLOCK gene variant and reported stress because of financial hardship had a 20 percent greater chance of developing migraines.
Although the study does not show a cause-effect connection, it does help to provide genetic evidence to substantiate the long-perceived relationship between stress and headaches.
Researchers used financial stress in this study because financial stress typically causes extended periods of stress compared to short-term stressors like work assignments or traffic. Financial stress is also very typical; results of a 2015 study by the American Psychological Association show that 67 percent of Americans report feeling stress about money.
The cost of treating migraines may cause further stress for some people with the condition: Health care costs are 70 percent higher for a family with a migraine sufferer than a non-migraine-affected family. In 2015, American migraine sufferers spent over $41 billion treating migraine pain and related symptoms.
Millions With Migraines
The Migraine Research Foundation estimates that 39 million Americans suffer from migraines, and migraines affect almost 25 percent of U.S. households.
Migraines severely impact the quality of life of sufferers, causing them to miss school, work and sleep.
According to the American Headache Society, people who suffer 15 or more migraines every month miss almost 4.5 hours of work every week.
Many migraine sufferers experience disabling symptoms in addition to head pain. These symptoms include auras or other visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sensitivity to light, smell and sound. Some individuals also report numbness in their face, arms or legs.
"Migraines are disruptive for many people’s lives. They physically cannot get up or be present in activities because of their severe head pain," according to Dr. Michael Budler.
Twenty percent of migraine sufferers are disabled by their pain, according to the MRF.
Budler is an interventional radiologist who treats patients with migraines in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Migraine sufferers also often become reliant on prescription drugs to help manage pain and other symptoms.
"Using pain relievers and other types of migraine medications frequently can create dependency. Taking these drugs can also mean more headaches, a condition known as rebound headaches or rebound pain," Budler said.
Rebound headaches often occur when individuals take pain relievers regularly for extended periods of time.
"Stress is just one migraine trigger, and it is a big one, but because stress is so common, many people may miss that it is triggering their headaches," Budler said. "There are many others, and they vary from person to person, Some individuals can have more than one trigger."
Other factors that contribute to a migraine include environmental factors, like fluorescent lighting; changes in the weather; or fluctuations in atmospheric pressure. Other common migraine triggers include certain odors, caffeine, some cheeses, and food preservatives like MSG. A 2017 study also reported that certain patterns, like stripes, also cause migraines to develop in some individuals.
Newsweek. Got a headache about your finances? There's research to back that up. 2 September 2017.
Migraine Research Foundation. Migraine Facts. 2017.