Headaches and Academic Performance in University Students: A Cross-Sectional Study

Keywords: headache; prevalence; educational measurement; study performance; student

Hugo R. Souza-e-Silva MSc, Pedro A. S. Rocha-Filho MD, PhD

Article first published online: 14 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2011.02012.x

Objectives.— To estimate the 1-year prevalence of headache, its repercussion and its association with the academic performance of university students.

Methods.— Cross-sectional study. Three hundred eighty students were randomly selected out of the 1718, 90.5% of them were interviewed. A semi-structured interview, the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were used. The variables related to academic performance: absenteeism, performance coefficient and number of failures in disciplines, were obtained by consulting the academic records.

Results.— Three hundred forty-four students were interviewed. The headache prevalence was 87.2%. Migraine prevalence was 48.5%. Tension-type headache prevalence was 42.4%. During the 3 months prior to the interview, 8.7% sought emergency services, 30.8% missed class, and 30.8% had a reduction in their productive capacity because of headache. HIT-6: substantial/severe impact = 49%. Multiple linear regressions have shown that serious/very serious-impact headaches are significantly related to greater number of discipline failure and absenteeism. There was no association between student grades and headaches.

Conclusion.— A high prevalence of headache in the studied population was verified. A high headache impact on a student’s life was associated with worse academic performance.

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