Burden of Migraine

There is an extensive body of research showing the significant burden that migraine imposes on the individual sufferer, family and friends, and society as a whole.

Individual impacts

A comprehensive review of global data conducted as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative “Lifting the Burden: The Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache Worldwide” found that migraine was the cause of 1.3 % of all years of life lost to disability.[1]

In the American Migraine Study II (AMS-II), nine out of ten migraine sufferers reported functional impairment during migraine episodes and over half reported that their severe headaches resulted in substantial impairment of activity or the need for bed rest. Thirty-one percent (31%) reported missing ≥1 day of work or school in previous 3 months due to migraine and over half reporting a reduction of ≥50% in school or work productivity.[2]

A similar picture of disability emerges from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) study, a large population-based survey (N=162,576).[3] The majority of migraine sufferers (53.7%) reported that migraine episodes were associated with severe impairment or the need for bed rest, with just 7% reporting lack of impairment. Thirty-five percent (35%) of migraine sufferers reported having had at least 1 day of restricted activity due to headache over the course of a 3-month period.

Family impacts

Other studies have documented the significant negative impact that migraines have on family life and social relationships. The Migraine And Zolmitriptan Evaluation (MAZE) survey examined the impact of migraine on patient families in a sample of migraine sufferers (n=866) and those who were living with or related to them (n=162).[4] Living with or being related to a migraine sufferer had a negative impact on various areas of family life and work. Almost half of the non-migraine respondents reported that living with or being related to a migraine sufferer had a moderate or great impact on both home/family life and social leisure activities.

Another population-based study conducted in the US and the United Kingdom, examined the impact of migraine on family life.[5] A sample of migraine sufferers with at least 6 episodes per year who lived with married partners were selected from a general population sample and asked to participate in the study. Both migraine sufferers (n=389) and their partners (n=100) were interviewed. The great majority of migraine sufferers (85%) living with a household partner reported substantially reduced ability to carry out household work and chores. Almost half (45%) missed family social and leisure activities, and approximately one-third (32%) avoided planning activities because they feared having to cancel due to headaches. About half believed that their migraine increased the likelihood that they would argue with their partners and children. These findings were confirmed in interviews with partners, with a majority reporting a variety of negative effects on relationships at home attributable to migraine. Compared with non-migraine controls, a significantly higher proportion of migraine partners expressed dissatisfaction with work demands placed on them (P=0.002), with work responsibilities and duties (P<0.001), and with their ability to perform (P= 0.001).

Economic impacts

Migraine is associated with considerable cost to society in general in lost productivity and health costs. Using 1994 MEDSTAT medical claims data and statistics from the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hu and colleagues assessed the economic burden of migraine in the US.[6] The study found an average annual disability of 3.8 bed rest days for men and 5.6 days for women each year, for a total of 112 million bedridden days. Based on missed workdays and functional impairment in the workplace, the annual cost of migraine to employers was estimated at $13 billion, with approximately $8 billion directly attributed to missed workdays. Direct costs for migraine care on an annual basis were estimated at approximately $1 billion.

Written by: Jonathan Simmons, PhD | Last review date: March 2012.
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