Openness may play a protective role in the co-occurrence of migraine and depression

People with depression and neuroticism are particularly susceptible to migraine. This was shown in a current Hungarian/UK study presented at the Congress of the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) in Amsterdam. Openness to new experiences, on the other hand, may reduce the risk of developing migraine in people with history of depression. 

Amsterdam, 27 June 2017 – Neuroticism is a risk factor for both migraine and depression, while openness plays a role in the prevention of the co-occurrence of these conditions. This was the conclusion of a Hungarian/UK study which analysed the relationship between personality traits, depression and migraine in more than 3,000 participants in Budapest and Manchester. The results of the study were presented at the 3rd Congress of the European Academy of Neurology in Amsterdam. “Our study shows that individuals who suffered from depression experience migraine headaches significantly more often than people without this psychiatric disorder,” commented Dr Máté Magyar from Budapest’s Semmelweis University. “This situation can only be partially explained by genetic risk factors, which is why we analysed personality traits using the Big Five Inventory.” According to this model, there are five higher-order dimensions by which human personality can be described: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Neuroticism as an independent risk factor for depression and migraine

As the results showed, people are particularly susceptible to depression and migraine if they score highly for neuroticism. This personality dimension covers nervousness, irritability, persistent dissatisfaction and frequent experience of negative emotions.  “But migraine does not always co-occur with depression: there were also participants in the study who, while suffering from migraine, have not had depression in their lifetime,” Dr Magyar reported. This group scored higher for openness. This personality trait includes intellectual curiosity, a preference for variation over routine, artistic or aesthetic interest. “Neuroticism is an independent risk factor for depression and for migraine. An open character appears to offer protection from the co-occurrence of these diseases. Our study results could help to provide a better understanding of the biopsychosocial background of migraine, and help to find novel strategies in the prevention of and interventions for these conditions,” Dr Magyar summed up. 


3rd EAN Congress Amsterdam 2017, Abstract Magyar et al. Personality traits influence the co-occurrence of migraine and depression; Magyar et al. Decreased openness to experience is associated with migraine-type headaches in subjects with lifetime depression. Front. Neurol. | doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00270,

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