Why Do Women Get More Headaches Than Men?

Hormones may be the most obvious culprit, but other factors can be at play. – THE NEW YORK TIMES

Q. I get headaches constantly, but it seems like the men in my life get them less frequently. Are headaches more common in women? And if so, why?

It’s true: Women get more headaches than men do. In fact, when researchers asked participants in a recent national survey if they were bothered “a little,” “a lot,” “somewhere in between” or “not at all” by a headache or migraine in the past three months, women were nearly three times as likely as men to report having been bothered “a lot.”

Although there are likely many contributors, research suggests that one clear reason for the gender discrepancy is hormones.

But this doesn’t explain all headaches, and some types afflict men more than women. Here’s what we know.

Women and Migraine

One major type of headache is migraine. It is characterized by moderate to severe throbbing, usually on one side of the head, and it’s one of the most common causes of disability among women aged 15 to 49. These headaches can last from four to 72 hours.

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Before puberty, boys and girls are equally likely to experience migraine headaches, said Dr. Anne MacGregor, a headache specialist at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in Britain. But once puberty hits, migraine headaches become much more common among women and girls.

Women are two to three times as likely as men to suffer from migraine, said Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, a neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. And this type of headache usually hits women hardest in their 30s — “an especially demanding time in life, when the consequences of days lost to debilitating pain can be tremendous,” she said.

One possible reason for this discrepancy is because women tend to report having more stress …

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