Can migraine headaches reduce academic performance?

By Staff

UC Denver Professor Daniel Rees(left) and American University Professor Joseph Sabia(right)

A new study by University of Colorado Denver researchers suggests that youths who suffer from migraines in early childhood can take home lower grades when they reach high school.

The study by researchers Daniel Rees, a UC Denver economics professor, and Joseph Sabia, a professor of public policy at American University's School of Public Affairs, also concludes that such headaches can decrease the likelihood of high school graduation and college enrollment.

Rees and Sabia presented their findings on July 1 at the 84th annual Conference of the Western Economic Association International in Vancouver, British Columbia.

As with their study on breastfeeding and academic achievement, the scholars analyzed data on sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The data they analyzed was based on parental reports that identified siblings raised in the same household with different migraine experiences.

The authors discovered that suffering from migraine headaches was associated with a 5 percent reduction in high school GPA, a 5 percent reduction in the likelihood of graduating from high school, and a 15 percent reduction in the likelihood of attending college. Non-migraine headaches were not associated with reductions in academic performance.

"By focusing on differences between siblings, we can rule out the possibility that family-level factors such as socioeconomic status are driving the relationship between migraine headache and academic performance," Rees said.

The researchers analyzed data gathered from 214 siblings from 105 families.