The Journal of Headache and Pain

"European Headache Federation" and of "Lifting The Burden - The Global Campaign against Headache"

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Open Access

A population-based follow-up study of headache from age 7 to 22 years

  • Minna Aromaa,
  • Matti Sillanpää and
  • Hillevi Aro
The Journal of Headache and PainOfficial Journal of the Italian Society for the Study of Headaches1:00010011.10194


To study changes in headache prevalence during childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, we performed a prospective long-term follow-up study on an unselected child population. Seven-year-old children, resident in a Finnish city and starting primary school, were followed for 15 years. Data were collected at the ages of 7, 13, 14, and 22 years. Number of children participating in all four stages was 1205. Number of participants answering questions concerning the prevalence of headache in different ages varied between 918–1204. Face-to-face interviews and structured questionnaires were employed. After the start of compulsory school, the prevalence of overall headache rose from the preschool level of 27.1% to 63.6% at age 14 years to 66.2% at age 22 years. At preschool age, the prevalence of migraine was 4.3% in girls and 3.6% in boys. In girls, the highest prevalence rate (15.2%) occurred at the age of 13 years, and was higher than the peak prevalence in boys (6.5%). After the onset of puberty, a temporary decrease of migraine prevalence was found in girls, and a permanent one in boys. The overall prevalence of headache remained virtually unchanged during and after puberty. Headache and migraine are relatively prevalent at preschool age but entering puberty represents a substantially increased risk of headache without a great variation throughout puberty and in young adulthood. Preschool headaches do not necessarily persist and may disappear during and after puberty. From the preventive viewpoint, the target children are those who either continue to have headache or who develop headache during school years.

Key words Childhood headacheMigraineLong-term follow-upPopulation study