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Half Of Adults Suffer From Headache Disorders

May 3, 2011

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that about half of all adults around the world suffer from headache disorders like migraines and tension headaches, and the problem has huge economic and societal costs.

The WHO said headaches are widely under-recognized, under-diagnosed and under-treated, and the knowledge about them and the burdens they impose must be improved.

According to WHO, 47 percent of all adults have a headache disorder and “the financial costs to society through lost productivity are enormous.”

It said in the European Union (EU) alone, 190 million days are lost from work every year because of migraine.

“Headache and migraine disorders are greatly underrated and underreported by health systems and receive too little attention,” Dr Shekhar Saxena, the WHO’s director of mental health and substance abuse disorders, told Reuters.

“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.”

Migraines affect about one in six women and one in 12 men, and have been estimated to be the most expensive brain disorder to society in the EU and the U.S.

The report said headache disorders are very disabling, and migraines cause 1.3 percent of all disability due to illness. 

Migraine is the cause of about 400,000 lost days from work or school each year per million of the population in developed countries.  The annual cost of migraines has recently been estimated at $229 billion.

“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,” Saxena told Reuters.

Last year, an international scientific team said it identified a genetic risk factor linked with common migraines.

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