Background: The purpose of this study was to determine headache characteristics, impact on daily activities and medication attitudes among a large sample of adolescents in Italy. Methods: Secondary school classes were randomly selected from a national stratified multistage sampling. Data regarding socio-familial factors, headache characteristics, impact on daily activities and medication use were recorded with an anonymous multiple-choice questionnaire. Results: The survey involved 2064 adolescents. 1950 questionnaires were considered for analysis. Study population included 944 males (48.4%) and 1006 females (51.6%), aged between 11 and 16 years (mean 13.5 ± 1.87). Headache prevalence was 65.9%. Mean age at headache onset was 8.33 years. 9.8% suffered from headache > 1/week, 14.3% > 1/month, 24.2% monthly and 17.7% less than monthly. The mean duration of a headache episode was less than 30 min in 32.9%, 1 hour in 28.1%, 2 hours in 19.3% and several hours in 19.5%. Pain intensity was moderate in 52.2% and severe in 9.5%. School represented the main trigger factor (67%). Impact on daily activities was noted in 57.5%. 69.2% of adolescents reported the use of pain relievers. Up to 5.7% declared self-medication, while only 20.6% followed a physician's prescription. Female adolescents experienced headache more frequently (70.2% vs 60%) and more intensely than male peers. Girls had a higher family history of headache, could more frequently identify a trigger factor, and were more affected into their daily activities than boys. Conclusions: Population-based studies of headache disorders are important, as they inform needs assessment and underpin service policy for a disease that is a public-health priority. Headache has a high prevalence among adolescents and carries a significant burden in terms of impact on daily activities and use of medication. Furthermore, underdiagnose is common, while trigger factors are often detectable. Special consideration should be given to female adolescents and self-medication attitudes.
- Italian adolescents
- Public health
- Quality of life
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health