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Around 190 million work days lost every year in EU because of migraine

First global study on migraine and headache disorders finds that more women than men suffer from headaches.

Image: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

A GLOBAL STUDY into “the health, economic and social impact” of headache disorders has found that these afflictions – which include migraines – are the most common disorders in the world.

The World Health Organisation and a group called ‘Lifting the Burden: the Global Campaign against Headache’ released the study today at the European Parliament in Brussels. The study is the first of its kind, called the Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011.

Based on data it received from neurologists, GPs and some patients in a large international survey carried out between October 2006 to March 2009, the survey focused on adults aged 18-65 years.

Some of its main findings include:

  • Headache disorders, including migraine and tension-type headaches, “are among the most prevalent disorders of mankind”.
  • Migraine on its own is the cause of 1.3 per cent of all years of life lost to disability.
  • Between half and three-quarters of adults aged 18-65 years surveyed have suffered headaches in the last year.
  • Women are more likely than men to suffer from headache.
  • Around 190 million sick days are taken in the EU every year because of migraine.
  • Only 12 per cent of countries that responded to the survey include headache disorders in their annual health reporting system.

Patrick Little, CEO of the Migraine Association in Ireland, said that while data suggests that between 12 and 15 per cent of Irish people have suffered from migraine at some point, the recognition of it as a condition remains a problem. He said:

One of the problems is that not all health professionals are comfortable with tackling migraine when it presents in a patient. One of the main jobs the Association has is to provide information, support and training, not just for people who suffer migraine but for health professionals too.

We’ve had some positive engagement recently with the HSE for more structured support for people with migraine. We would like to see a migraine module provided in GP training.

The situation for people with headache and migraine disorders is “progressing”, according to Little, but he told TheJournal.ie that the fact that it is difficult to pin down a definitive root cause of such disorders makes it an unattractive illness for consultants to engage with. He said:

There are ‘easier’ diseases, for want of a better word, to deal with that have a definite diagnosis and success rate – there is no ‘cure’ as such for migraine.

However, he praised the fact that there was double the number of clinics dealing with migraine than there had been when he started with the Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI) in 2008. “There were just two when I started and now there are four – the Mater Neurological unit, one in Beaumont, in Cork University Hospital and in St Vincent’s”.

The MAI also has two websites aimed at young people to help both young sufferers and also to help the children of adult sufferers to understand the condition. They are at www.migraineandme.ie (for primary school age children) and www.migra-zone.ie (for secondary school).

To see the full results of the Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011, click here>

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