What’s been done
Half the world's population is affected by headache
A landmark study last year by a Lifting The Burden working group analysed all population-based surveys of headache prevalence, and its disabling consequences, throughout the world. Published in Cephalalgia (March issue), the premier international headache journal, it revealed that 50 per cent of the world's population are directly affected by headache. The authors argued that headache disorders are, collectively, amongst the ten most disabling health complaints globally, and among the top five in women.
The international working group, chaired by Professor Lars Jacob Stovner of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, found one in nine (11 per cent) of the world's adult population have migraine. Tension-type headache on its own afflicts almost half (42 per cent) of all adults. While migraine tends to be more burdensome for the individual, tension-type headache has a greater impact on society as a whole because of the numbers of people affected. This finding is confirmed by studies from developed countries that show more work days are lost each year from tension-type headache than from migraine.
The review also reveals some interesting differences in headache prevalence across the world. For example, both migraine and tension-type headache seem to be less prevalent in Eastern countries. However, the authors call for more studies in regions outside North America and Western Europe, as the evidence there is limited.
For more information see Stovner LJ, Hagen K, Jensen R, Katsarava Z, Lipton R, Scher AI et al. The global burden of headache: a documentation of headache prevalence and disability worldwide. Cephalalgia 2007;27:193-210.