How does the prevalence of pediatric headache vary by age?

Updated: Jan 02, 2019
  • Author: J Ivan Lopez, MD, FAAN, FAHS; Chief Editor: George I Jallo, MD  more...
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Throughout the medical literature, estimates of overall frequency of headache in children vary among authors.

Secondary headaches are the ones that are most frequently encountered before age 5 years. Migraine headache can occur as early as a few months of age. (A higher prevalence of migraine seems to exist in city dwellers.) Chronic tension-type headache occurs in 0.9% of 15 year-olds.

In a widely cited study, Bille analyzed a questionnaire of 8993 children aged 7-15 years in the city of Uppsala in Sweden and found that 59% had suffered headache at some time in their life. [15, 16] In a systematic questionnaire of 2941 children, Sillanpaa found the prevalence of headache to be 37% at age 7 years, increasing to 69% by 14 years; migraine accounted for 2.7% and 10.6% of these headaches, respectively.

A meta-analysis found that the prevalence of headache in general was approximately 60% by age 7. Other studies have shown that up to 51% of children aged 7 years and 57-82% of adolescents aged 15 years report recurrent headaches. [17, 18]

A study performed in Taiwan indicated that approximately 85% of children aged 13-15 years have had headache. [19] According to a large survey by Split et al, 75% of children have suffered headaches in general by age 15 years. [20]

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