Anxiety, Depression, and Body Weight in Children and Adolescents With Migraine

Samuela Tarantino, Laura Papetti, Alessandra Di Stefano, Valeria Messina, Fabiana Ursitti, Michela Ada Noris Ferilli, Giorgia Sforza, Romina Moavero, Federico Vigevano, Simonetta Gentile, Massimiliano Valeriani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: There is a lack of studies that explore the possible association between body weight, psychological symptoms, and migraine severity in pediatric populations. The purpose of the study was to explore: (1) the association between body weight and the frequency of migraine attacks, (2) the possible differences in anxiety and depression symptoms according to the frequency of attacks and body weight, and (3) the possible mediating role of anxiety and/or depression in the association between body weight and frequency of migraine attacks in children. Methods: One hundred and eleven children/adolescents with migraine were included (47 boys and 64 girls; mean age 11.7; ±2.4 years). The patients were classified as: (1) high frequency patients, reporting from weekly to daily episodes and (2) low frequency patients, with ≤3 episodes per month. According to their body mass index percentiles, the patients were divided in “Normal weight” (from ≥5 to <85 percentile), “Overweight” (from ≥85 to <95 percentile), and “Obese” (≥95 percentile). Given the low number of obese patients, the overweight and obese groups were considered together in the “Overweight” group. Anxiety and depression symptoms were assessed by the Self-Administered Psychiatric Scales for Children and Adolescents (SAFA). Results: Fifty-four patients were normal in weight (49.6%), while 56 patients (50.4%) were overweight. The overweight patients showed a higher frequency of migraine attacks (64.7%; p < 0.05). Patients with a high frequency of attacks reported higher scores in all SAFA-Anxiety subscales (SAFA-A Tot: F = 15.107; p = 0.000). Overweight patients showed a significantly higher score in the “Separation anxiety” subscale (F = 7.855; p = 0.006). We found a mediating role between the overweight and high frequency for total anxiety (z = 2.11 ± 0.03; p < 0.05) and social anxiety (z = 2.04 ± 0.03; p < 0.05). Conclusions: Our results suggest that, among the children suffering from migraine, the overweight status is associated with a higher frequency of attacks and separation anxiety symptoms. In particular, our study provides the first evidence of the role of anxiety in linking overweight and the frequency of migraine attacks in children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Article number530911
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 28 2020


  • anxiety
  • body weight
  • children
  • depression
  • migraine frequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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