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Migraine and Its Impact on Quality of Life

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2022

Quality of life is a concept that means different things to different people. In general, quality of life includes how a person feels about their living conditions, health, comfort, and happiness. Anyone who lives with migraine knows it can have a significant and negative impact on quality of life.

Migraine symptoms can last for days and disrupt your ability to perform basic, daily tasks. In turn, this affects the physical, emotional, and social aspects of life. Even between attacks, migraine impacts quality of life, especially when people try to limit daily activities to prevent another migraine.1

Who is impacted most?

One study found women between the ages of 20 and 40 reported worse quality of life than others with migraine. Other things linked to poor quality of life were:1,2

  • Younger age
  • Longer time with a migraine diagnosis
  • Greater frequency and severity of migraine attacks
  • Having other chronic conditions

Another study found that – even during attack-free periods – people with migraine report poorer quality of life than people without migraine. This is thought to be the result of several factors, including:1

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  • Missed school and work
  • Much higher rates of depression and anxiety
  • Higher rates of: Chronic pain, stroke, gastrointestinal disease, and heart disease

In addition to women, healthcare workers and people with low income reported more disability caused by their migraines.3

How does migraine affect quality of life?

One of the striking things about migraine is that its impact on quality of life is largely the same around the world. Studies find that people with migraine are more likely to feel that they:1-3

  • Are worthless
  • Give less value in their workplace
  • Are being left out
  • Are letting other people down
  • Lack credibility
  • Are less capable as parents

As you might expect, the more severe the person’s migraines, the more likely these feelings are. One study concluded that incomplete pain relief during attacks contributes to this. Feeling like others do not believe you or dismiss your suffering also lowered quality of life.1,3

A Canadian study found more than half of patients said migraine prevented them from driving. Three out of 4 said they slept poorly because of migraine, and 1 out of 3 missed at least 1 day of work. A study in Saudi Arabia found 4 percent of all missed workdays were due to migraine.1

Doctors believe perceptions of quality of life may improve as a person gets older. This is because they gradually learn to accept migraine’s realities and what works best for them during and between attacks.1

Testing impact on your quality of life

There are several questionnaires that will help measure how much migraine impacts your quality of life. Your doctor may give you one of these tests. You may also take a questionnaire on your own. You can use the results to start a discussion with your doctor about how much migraine shapes your world.

One of these tests is called the MIDAS test. MIDAS stands for Migraine Disability Assessment Scale. Other quality of life tests for people with migraines include:

  • Headache Impact Test (HIT-6™)
  • Migraine-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MSQ)
  • Patient Perception of Migraine Questionnaire

Rather than ask you about the frequency and severity of your migraines, these tests focus on questions like how often migraine interferes with:1

  • How well you deal with those close to you
  • Leisure activities like exercise or dinner with friends
  • Your ability to go to school or work
  • The number of days you feel energetic
  • How often you feel frustrated or a burden to others

These tools will ask you multiple questions about how migraine attacks alter your life at school, home, and work. The test results may give your doctor a better picture of how migraine affects your daily life in a way that a symptom diary does not.

If you feel migraine stops you from living the life you want, talk with your doctor. If your doctor does not believe you, it is okay to look for another doctor. Undertreatment of migraine directly impacts quality of life.1