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01.12.2014 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

The Journal of Headache and Pain 1/2014

Headache prevalence and characteristics among adolescents in the general population: a comparison between retrospect questionnaire and prospective paper diary data

The Journal of Headache and Pain > Ausgabe 1/2014
Bo Larsson, Åsa Fichtel
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1129-2377-15-80) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

BL conceived the design of the study, performed the statistical analyses and wrote up drafts of the manuscript. ÅF participated in the planning of the study, collected parts of the data and read earlier drafts of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.



In the present school-based study, a convenience sample of 237 adolescents in grade 6-9 and second year in high school (age 12-18 years) was recruited from a city and a smaller town. The aim of the study was to compare information on the prevalence and various characteristics of headaches not related to disease in a retrospect questionnaire and prospective daily recordings of headaches in a standard paper diary during a 3-week period.


Besides headache severity, number of headache days, intensity levels and duration of headache episodes were estimated with both assessment methods. Most of the school children suffered from tension-type headaches and a smaller portion of migraine attacks.


The overall results showed that school children significantly (p < 0.001) overestimated headache intensity in questionnaires as compared to diary recordings, whereas they underestimated frequency (p < 0.001) and duration (p < 0.001) of headaches. While the correlations on headache severity, frequency and duration between retrospect information in questionnaires and prospective diary recordings were low, the agreement varied with levels of headache characteristics.


Our findings concur well with results from a few similar community studies on headache complaints in school-aged children. We recommend that prospective recordings in diaries should be systematically used in clinical practice but also in epidemiological surveys to increase the validity and reliability in estimates of point prevalence of headache complaints in children and adolescents.
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