Migraine Linked With Higher Health Care Costs in Adults with Obesity

January 11, 2019

US adults with obesity had more than $2000 in health expenses annually when they also reported migraine, according to a study in ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research.

Researchers used the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to identify 23,596 adults with obesity, of whom 4.7% reported migraine when they sought medical care. Because the figure was much lower than the 20% to 25% of people with obesity estimated to experience migraine, researchers hypothesized many people do not consult with physicians about their migraines.

According to the study’s 7 years of data, adults with obesity who reported migraine had an additional $1401 in medical, $813 in prescription drug, and $2213 in total health expenses annually compared to adults with obesity who did not report migraine.

Interestingly, migraine-related expenses accounted for just 5% of total health expenses, researchers noted, and did not significantly contribute to the greater total health expenses associated with migraine. Instead, increased healthcare use and expenses in adults with migraine were predominantly linked with outpatient services and prescription medication use.

“In addition, this study showed that only 26% of adult migraineurs used antimigraine prescription medications for treatment,” researchers wrote, “suggesting that migraine may be undertreated.”

Risk factors for reporting migraine, according to the study, included younger age (between 18 and 45), female gender, White race, poor perceived health, and higher comorbidity scores.

“This study adds to our understanding of migraine in a distinct subpopulation: obese adults,” researchers wrote. “Knowing the risk factors for comorbid migraine could help medical providers tailor prevention and treatment strategies for obese adults by incorporating comorbidity management.”

Jolynn Tumolo


Wu J, Davis-Ajami ML, Lu ZK. Impact of migraine on health care utilization and expenses in obese adults: a US population-based study. ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research. 2018;2019(11):51-59.