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Pain. 1992 Oct;51(1):35-42.

The role of stressful life events in the persistence of primary headache: major events vs. daily hassles.

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Pain Research and Treatment Unit, Institute of Neurosurgery, University of Milan, Italy.


This study investigated the role of major stressful life events vs. minor life events (i.e., daily hassles) in the persistence of primary headache. It was hypothesized that chronic headache patients (n = 83) would be characterized not so much by exposure to a continued surfeit of inherently major life events as by a tendency to appraise cognitively and emotionally any ongoing microstressor or daily hassle as being more arousing or impactful than headache-free controls (n = 51). As predicted, chronic headache patients reported a significantly higher frequency (P < 0.01) and density (P < 0.01) of daily hassles, but not of major life events, than controls. Furthermore, minor life events were significantly correlated with headache frequency (P < 0.001) and density (P < 0.001) but not with gender, age and headache history. In terms of item content, health-related hassles (e.g., trouble relaxing) were perceived as being the most stressful. Significant differences between headache subgroups (chronic tension-type headache, migraine, mixed headache) were found, with tension-type and mixed headache sufferers reporting a higher incidence and density of daily hassles than migrainous patients. It was concluded that daily hassles were significantly associated with the persistence of headache and might be a better life event approach to chronic headache than major stressful events.

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