In 2016, headaches, and migraines in particular, contributed to a substantial proportion of global and national disability reports, according to systematic analysis results published in Lancet Neurology.

Survey data on migraines and population-based study data of tension-type headache prevalence were used for the analysis. A Bayesian metaregression model was used to calculate the global prevalence of migraine and tension-type headache for each sex and 5-year age group interval, starting at 5 years of age. Global and Global Burden of Disease region prevalence calculations focused on the years between 1990 and 2016. The data were also used to estimate the years of life lived with disability and disability-adjusted life-years for patients with migraine and tension-type headache, as well as the burden associated with medication overuse headache.

In 2016, the study investigators estimated that approximately 3 billion individuals across the globe had a migraine (n=1.04 billion; 95% uncertainty interval [UI], 1 billion-1.09 billion) or tension-type headache (n=1.89 billion; 95% UI, 1.71 billion-2.10 billion). The global number of years of life lived with disability was higher for migraine (45.1 million; 95% UI, 29.0 million-62.8 million) compared with tension-type headache (7.2 million; 95% UI, 4.6 million-10.5 million) in 2016. Female individuals between the ages of 15 and 49 years experienced the most burdensome headaches, represented by 2016 years of life lived with disability of 20.3 million (95% UI, 12.9 million-28.5 million) for migraine and 2.9 million (95% UI, 1.8 million-4.2 million) for tension-type headaches.

The lack of epidemiological data from some regions of the world and the substantial methodological heterogeneity across studies represented possible limitations of the study.

“Nevertheless, [Global Burden of Disease] 2016 confirms that headache, and in particular, migraine, is a large public health problem in both sexes and all age groups worldwide, but most so in young and middle-aged women,” the researchers wrote. “Headache is not limited to the high-income part of the world and, unless action is taken, it is here to stay: there is no indication that the demographic and epidemiological transitions alone will improve the situation.”

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Reference

GBD 2016 Headache Collaborators. Global, regional, and national burden of migraine and tension-type headache, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet Neurol. 2018;17(11):954-976.