October 16, 2020

Using data from Wave V of Add Health, scientists find that sexual minorities are more susceptible to migraines than their heterosexual counterparts.

sexual minorities are more susceptible to migraines than their heterosexual counterparts

Research has shown that migraines are the fifth leading cause of emergency room visits in the U.S., with one in six adults suffering from migraines. Although it is recognized that the LGBTQ community experience an array of discrimination when seeking health care, there has been a lack of investigation into migraine prevalence among non-heterosexual persons at the national level. Using the recently released Add Health Wave V survey data, Dr. Jason Nagata’s findings show that sexual minority adults are more likely to suffer from migraines compared to heterosexual adults. It may be in part due to an increase in stress from acute discrimination and prejudice that sexual minorities experience, in addition to barriers to physical and mental healthcare which further exacerbate the problem. Dr. Nagata and his research team also found that those who identify as mostly-heterosexual were at higher risk for migraine than those who identified as exclusively heterosexual.

Add Health Wave V data sets are available via restricted-use data contract.  The survey questions used for this analysis include the following migraine question:

“Have you ever had five or more headaches that were at least four hours long; one-sided, pulsating, intense, or worsened by activity; and associated with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound?” This question is consistent with the International Classification of Headache Disorders third edition diagnostic criteria for migraine without aura.


Dr. Jason M. Nagata

Dr. Kyle T. Ganson

Dr. Jennifer Tabler

Dr. Aaron J. Blashill

Dr. Stuart B. Murray

Citation: Nagata JM, Ganson KT, Tabler J, Blashill AJ, Murray SB. Disparities Across Sexual Orientation in Migraine Among US Adults. JAMA Neurol. Published online September 28, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.3406