Bullying linked to teen headaches

Bullying linked to teen headaches

Teen Headaches Linked to Bullying and Suicidal Thoughts

Exploring the Connection Between Teen Headaches and Psychological Factors

Being a teenager can be tough, with various challenges and stressors affecting their daily lives. One common issue that many teenagers face is headaches. But did you know that headaches in teens can be linked to more than just biological factors? Recent research suggests that bullying and suicidal thoughts are both associated with more frequent headaches in adolescents.

Dr. Serena Orr, a study author from the University of Calgary in Canada, explains, “Our findings suggest that bullying and attempting or considering suicide may be linked to frequent headaches in teenagers, independent of mood and anxiety disorders.” In other words, it is not just the physiological factors that contribute to headaches but also the psychological and social aspects.

The study, which included over 2.2 million teens with an average age of 14, focused on understanding the relationship between headaches and various factors such as mental health, bullying experiences, and suicidal thoughts. Participants self-reported their headache frequency over the past six months, as well as their experiences with bullying and mental health conditions.

The Association Between Headaches, Bullying, and Mental Health

The results of the study revealed interesting correlations between headaches and psychological factors. About 11% of the participants reported having frequent, recurring headaches, defined as headaches occurring more than once a week. It was found that those with frequent headaches were nearly three times more likely to experience bullying than their peers.

Furthermore, teens who had been bullied or had suicidal tendencies were nearly twice as likely to have frequent headaches compared to their peers. The study also found that those with mood and anxiety disorders were 50% and 74% more likely, respectively, to have frequent headaches than their peers.

The study shed light on the different forms of bullying that teens experience. Approximately 25% of the participants reported frequent overt bullying, including physical and verbal aggression, name-calling, and online threats. Additionally, about 17% said they were victims of frequent relational bullying, which involves spreading rumors, exclusion, and posting harmful information on the internet.

Examining the Impact of Gender Diversity and Psychosocial Factors

Interestingly, the study discovered that gender-diverse teens were more likely to have frequent headaches. However, this connection disappeared when considering other factors such as bullying experiences or diagnosed mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Orr points out, “Perhaps gender diversity is not, in and of itself, related to frequent headaches, but that the psychosocial factors associated with it may explain this link.”

These findings highlight the urgency for further research into bullying interventions and a better understanding of the higher risk of headache disorders among gender-diverse youth. The study emphasizes the importance of bullying prevention efforts by policymakers and encourages doctors to screen children and teens with headache disorders for bullying experiences and suicidal tendencies.

The Implications and Importance of the Research

While this study does not establish a definitive causal link between bullying and headaches, it provides essential insights into the associations among psychological factors, bullying experiences, and frequent headaches in teenagers. It is worth noting that the self-reported nature of headaches is a study limitation, but the sheer number of participants lends weight to the findings.

These findings should serve as a wake-up call for parents, educators, and healthcare professionals to take headaches in teenagers seriously. It is crucial to address the psychological and social factors that contribute to headaches, ensuring appropriate support and intervention is in place.


Teenagers often face numerous challenges during their formative years. The recent research linking frequent headaches in teenagers to bullying and suicidal thoughts shines a light on the importance of considering the psychological and social factors impacting their well-being. While further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms at play, this study compels action toward bullying prevention, increased support for gender-diverse youth, and improved screening for mental health issues among teenagers with frequent headaches.

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  • American Academy of Neurology. “Teen Link: Bullying and Suicide Ideation Also Linked to Teen Headaches.” News release, Aug. 2, 2023.
  • American Psychological Association: Bullying.