Migraine and Headache Burden: New WHO Report

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Lifting the Burden (LTB) has been released with statistics and information about the world-wide burden of Migraine and other headache disorders. The 35-page report is titled "Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011."

Dr. Shekhar Saxena of the WHO said,

"Headache and migraine disorders are greatly underrated and underreported by health systems and receive too little attention... Headaches can be debilitating for many people, rendering them unable to work. During migraine attacks, 90 percent of people postpone household chores, almost three-quarters have limited ability to work and half of them miss work entirely... Governments must take the issue more seriously, train health personnel in headache disorder diagnosis and treatment, and ensure appropriate medication is available and used properly."2

Key findings of the report

The burden of Migraine and headache:

  • "Headache disorders, including migraine and tension-type headache, are among the most prevalent disorders of mankind."1
  • One-half to three-quarters of the world's adults aged 18 to 65 have experienced a headache or Migraine in the past year.
  • Ten percent of the world's population have Migraine disease.
  • Between 1.7 and 4% of the adult population have a headache or Migraine 15 or more days a month.
  • "Worldwide, migraine on its own is the cause of 1.3 % of all years of life lost to disability (YLD s). The burden of all headache disorders is substantially higher according to a systematic review of the published literature. Health-policy makers everywhere therefore need to be well informed about headache disorders in their countries. Yet, in many countries, and at least four of the six WHO regions, there are gaps in the knowledge needed to inform health-care policy. More high-quality epidemiological studies are required in order to fill these."1

Diagnosis of Migraine and headache:

  • Most people with Migraine and other headache disorders are not diagnosed by a doctor.
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