The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence and characteristics of recurrent headaches and to investigate the sociodemographic differences between high school students with or without recurrent headaches from Izmir, Turkey. Multistep, stratified, cluster sampling method was used in this analytic, school-based cross-sectional study. Twenty-one schools were selected randomly, and 2384 preparatory, first-, second-, and third-grade high school students from 84 different classrooms constituted the study cohort. The prevalence of recurrent headaches was 45.7% (1090/ 2384). Female students had a significantly higher headache frequency than males (P = 0.000). No significant relationship was evident between age and headache (P = 0.065). Also, there were no significant differences between the adolescents with or without headache for variables such as parental divorce (P = 0.052), existence of a step parent (P = 0.32), people with whom the students live at home (P = 0.186), number of siblings (P = 0.37), and maternal and paternal educational levels (P = 0.62 and P = 0.15, respectively). Headache frequency was higher when the income level of the student's family was lower (P = 0.016). Among the students who had headaches, 53.3% had a medication, 37.3% were referred to a physician, and in 27.2% of them a diagnosis was established. School absenteeism with a ratio of 26.5% was a common problem among the students with headaches. These results indicate that approximately one half of Turkish high school students have recurrent headaches which reduce the quality of their lives. (c) 2006 by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.