Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, the survey involved nearly 10,000 Americans aged between 31 and 42 from 2016 to 2018. Roughly 86% of the participants identified as heterosexual, with 10% saying they were “mostly” straight. The remaining 4% of participants identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The findings ultimately determined that gay, lesbian and bisexual participants experienced migraines at a rate 58% higher than that of heterosexual participants.
Although the survey noted that gay, lesbian and bisexual participants experienced migraines at a higher rate than heterosexuals, work conducted by researchers failed to pinpoint an exact reason why.
However, lead study author Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the university, told Reuters that “there might be a higher rate of migraines in [lesbian, gay and bisexual] people because of discrimination, stigma or prejudice, which may lead to stress and trigger a migraine.”
Data released by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicates that hate crimes based on an individual’s sexual orientation have been steadily increasing over the years. The agency’s most recent hate crime report indicates that in 2018, 17% of the total 7,036 single-bias reports made that year were a result of sexual orientation bias - a 1.1-percentage-point increase when compared to data published in 2017.
The FBI’s breakdown of the 1,404 hate crime offenses that were based on sexual orientation bias in 2018 notes that of all the incidents, 59.8% were driven by anti-gay bias.
“Physicians should be aware that migraines are quite common in [lesbian, gay and bisexual] individuals and assess for migraine symptoms,” Nagata stated, adding that barriers to health care may also explain the migraine disparity.
The US-based nonprofit Migraine Research Foundation notes that migraines are more than just your average headache, often causing sufferers to experience severe throbbing on one or both sides of their head. Other symptoms include visual disturbances, dizziness, vomiting, numbness and extreme sensitivity to light, smell, sound and touch, among other neurological effects.
The foundation states that migraines are the sixth-most disabling illness in the world, as attacks “usually” last between four and 72 hours. Additionally, the group indicated that an individual suffering from head pain checks themselves into an emergency room every 10 seconds in the US.
Previous studies on migraines have determined that gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status also play roles in the neurological disease’s occurrence. The Migraine Research Foundation found that women experience migraines three times as often as men, and that some 10% of school-aged children suffer from migraines.