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Lesbian, gay and bisexual people more likely to suffer migraines; discrimination may be to blame

Many members of sexual minority groups experience prejudice, stigma, and discrimination termed sexual minority stress, which could trigger or exacerbate migraine. Furthermore, members of sexual minority groups may encounter barriers to health care and experience greater physical and mental health problems, which could contribute to migraine.

Photo by Francisco Gonzalez from Unsplash.com

Members of the LGBTQIA community may have migraines at a higher rate than their straight counterparts, according to a study that suggested that this may be due to sexual minority stress brought about by prejudice, stigma and discrimination.

The study – “Disparities Across Sexual Orientation in Migraine Among US Adults” – was published in the journal JAMA.

Dr. Jason Nagata, lead author of the study, told Insider that the study was actually not able to evaluate why sexual minorities might experience migraines at a higher rate than straight people. However, “lesbian, gay and bisexual people may experience prejudice and discrimination which can lead to stress and trigger a migraine… They may also face barriers to accessing health care which can lead to worsened health,” he was quoted as saying.

For this study, the sample consisted of 9,894 adults, with a mean age of 37.33 years, of whom 51.0% (n = 5705) were women and 49.0% men (n = 4189). Participants identified as exclusively heterosexual (n = 8426 [85.8%]), mostly heterosexual (n = 1062 [10.0%]), or lesbian, gay, or bisexual (n = 406 [4.2%]).

Migraine was measured based on self-report in response to the interview question, “Have you ever had five or more headaches that were at least four hours long; one-sided, pulsating, intense, or worsened by activity; and associated with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light or sound?”. This was consistent with the International Classification of Headache Disorders, third edition diagnostic criteria for migraine without aura.

Sexual orientation was categorized into three categories: exclusively heterosexual; mostly heterosexual but somewhat attracted to people of one’s own sex; or lesbian, gay, or bisexual, as has been previously categorized.

Logistic regression analysis was conducted using Stata version 15.1 (StataCorp) with sexual orientation as the independent variable and migraine as the dependent variable, adjusting for sex, race/ethnicity, age, education, income, smoking, and alcohol use1 and incorporating national sample weighting.

The study noted that prevalence of migraine was higher among individuals who reported being mostly heterosexual (n = 327 [30.3%]) and lesbian, gay, or bisexual (n = 112 [30.7%]) compared with those who reported being exclusively heterosexual (n = 1631 [19.4%]).

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In its analysis, the researchers noted that “many members of sexual minority groups experience prejudice, stigma, and discrimination termed sexual minority stress, which could trigger or exacerbate migraine. Furthermore, members of sexual minority groups may encounter barriers to health care and experience greater physical and mental health problems, which could contribute to migraine.”

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