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Do Migraines Lead to Depression? Do Migraines Lead to ADA Claims?

Researchers will present findings from a recent study at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April 2012. The recently-released findings show that women who experience migraines, or have suffered from them in the past, are more likely to develop depression.

The researchers gathered data from more that 36,000 women for the Women's Health Study. Each woman provided information about her history of migraines and was placed under these different categories:
  • Having active migraine with aura
  • Having active migraine without aura
  • Having past history of migraine (but not within the last year)
  • Having no history of migraine
Results from the study revealed that a total of 6,456 women out of 36,154 had current or past problems with migraines. During the 14 years after the study more than half of these women developed depression. The women who had a history of migraines were almost twice as likely to develop depression compared to the women who had no history of migraines. Results did not vary substantially regardless of the type of migraine. "Migraine Increases Risk of Depression in Women," www.medicalnewstoday (Feb. 23, 2012).

Commentary

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include a list of medical conditions that constitute disabilities. Rather than a list, the Act defines disability and each claimed impairment is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

According to the ADA, a person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having an impairment.

In accordance with the Act, some people with migraine headaches will have a disability under the ADA's definition and some will not. Protection from disability discrimination depends on whether the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.

The National Headache Foundation estimates that 28 million Americans have migraine headaches and the World Health Organization considers migraines one of the most debilitating diseases in the world. Another study shows that 157 million workdays are lost each year because of the severity of migraine headaches.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), depression may be considered a mental impairment covered by the ADA. The major life activities limited by depression may include learning, thinking, concentrating, caring for oneself, sleeping, interpersonal relationships or working.

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