Scientists say teens who are victims of bullying or who have thought about or attempted suicide may experience headaches more frequently than others.
Feeling a wide range of emotions is a natural component of adolescent growth, and teens often go through periods of despair and adverse events.
On the other hand, chronic symptoms that impact a teen’s feelings, thoughts, and behavior indicate mental health issues. In addition, mental health conditions may cause problems with relationships, academics, sleep, and eating, among other everyday tasks.
The research, published on August 2 in Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology medical journal, solely demonstrates a link rather than proving that bullying or suicidal thoughts cause frequent headaches.
Although headaches are a typical issue for teens, according to research author Serena L. Orr of the University of Calgary in Canada, the study went beyond biological causes to include psychological and social variables.
She continues that the research suggests that, independently of mood and anxiety problems, recurrent headaches in teens may be related to bullying and attempts at or considerations of suicide.
More than 2.2 million teenagers, with an average age of 14 years, participated in the survey and 0.5% of all participants self-reported as transgender or self-reporting as being gender nonbinary.
Participants were questioned about whether they had experienced headaches in the previous six months and how frequently they occurred — rarely or never, approximately once per month, once per week, more frequently than once per week, or most days.
They were also asked about their mental health, including whether they had ever been diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders. They were questioned about whether they had experienced bullying the previous year and, if so, how frequently. Finally, they were asked if they had ever attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts in the last year.
How are frequent headaches and bullying linked?
The results found that 25% of the participants said they had experienced frequent overt bullying, which included being physically and verbally attacked, insulted, and threatened digitally, and 17% said they were often the targets of relational bullying, which included having unfavorable information circulated about them, being left out, and having it posted online.
In addition, 17% of individuals said they had thought about or attempted suicide and 11% of the participants experienced headaches more than once per week.
Researchers discovered that 34% of teenagers with regular headaches reported experiencing relational bullying at least once a month.
They also discovered that, in contrast to 14% of teenagers with headaches less frequently than once a week, 34% of teenagers with regular headaches had attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts. Teenagers who identified as gender diverse were shown to have a higher likelihood of experiencing headaches regularly, even after controlling for age and sex. The connection vanished after controlling for other variables, such as being bullied or having a recognized mood or anxiety problem.
Orr notes that while teens who identify as gender non-conforming seem to be more likely to experience recurrent headaches, this correlation vanishes when bullying, anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are taken into account. This suggests that gender diversity may not be directly linked to recurrent headaches but rather that the psychosocial factors linked to it could cause this relationship.
Another study in 2019 showed that the most prevalent sort of discomfort experienced by bullied teens was headaches. When compared to peers who weren't bullied, students who reported being bullied at least twice or three times per month were more likely to report having headaches, stomachaches, and backaches. Compared to non-bullied students, around 79.3% of those who were bullied reported having pain symptoms on a weekly basis.
This knowledge is crucial since these causes may be treated and prevented, so further research must be done.
Future studies on bullying remedies and a deeper comprehension of the increased risk of frequent headache problems among kids from varied gender backgrounds should be prompted by these findings.
She concludes that the research "should urge policymakers to increase efforts towards bullying prevention and should encourage doctors to screen children and teens with headache disorders for bullying and suicidal tendencies."
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health for Adolescents.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information. Bullying and Pain in School-Aged Children and Adolescents: A Cross-Sectional Study.