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Study: Gay, Bi People Suffer Many More Migraines Than Heterosexuals

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Researchers believe discrimination may play a part in the disproportionate numbers.

A new study from the University of California, San Francisco found that one-third of LGB people experience debilitating headaches, known as migraines.

Looking at nearly 10,000 people in their 30s and 40s, researchers found that the LGB participants experienced migraines 58 percent more than heterosexual participants. Migraines are described as extreme headaches that can cause sensitivity to sound and light, and prompt blurred vision, nausea, and vomiting. The condition, affecting more than one in six Americans, is a leading cause of emergency room visits.

A study that's results were released in 2017 showed that HIV-positive people also disproportionately suffer from migraines, with 45 percent of subjects reporting the extreme headaches.

Other migraine studies have shown that Black Americans disproportionately suffer from the condition, as well as people with lower incomes. Migraines are much more likely to strike women than men; 85 percent of migraine sufferers are female.

The UCSF researchers did not come up with conclusions as to why LGB people suffer more migraines than their heterosexual peers, but the prevalence of bias is believed to play a part. The UCSF study took place between 2016 and 2018, coinciding with the presidential election and the first half of the Trump presidency, where LGBTQ+ rights were frequently targeted by the administration.

“There might be a higher rate of migraines in LGB people because of discrimination, stigma or prejudice, which may lead to stress and trigger a migraine,” the study’s lead author Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UCSF, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Nagata urged doctors with gay, lesbian, or bisexual patients to be aware of the recent findings and screen their patients accordingly.

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Neal Broverman