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Headache Disorders Play Significant Role in Disability Globally and Require More Attention, Study Finds

Alison Rodriguez
Exmaning an assessment of data from the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors study, researchers found that headache disorders, specifically migraine, are important causes of disability worldwide and therefore require more attention in health policy debates and greater resources for research.
Headache represents a major public health concern, according to Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) studies. Following an assessment of data from the 2016 GBD study, researchers found that headache disorders, specifically migraine, are important causes of disability worldwide and therefore require more attention in health policy debates and greater resources for research.

The collected data involved surveys on migraine and tension-type headaches. The researchers determined prevalence for each sex, as well as for age group intervals, throughout different time points from 1990 and 2016 in all countries. Also, the study measured disease burden through years lived with disability (YLDs) and considered the burden resulting from medication overuse.

“Migraine and other headache disorders are among the most prevalent disorders worldwide, but recognition of their importance for public health has come only since 2000,” explained the researchers of the study. “This delay has occurred in part because headache is not fatal and does not result in permanent or objective disability, and in part because headaches are experienced by most people from time to time, which has hindered the realization that headache disorders are debilitating for a relatively large minority of the people who are affected.”

In 2016, nearly 3 billion individuals were estimated to have a migraine or tension-type headache, according to the study results. Migraine was found to have a much higher disability weight than tension-type headache, with migraine causing 45.1 million YLDs in 2016 and tension-type headache causing only 7.2 million. Furthermore, according to the results, headaches were most burdensome in women between the ages of 15 and 49.

“Nevertheless, GBD 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. 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,” concluded the authors. “Rather, these profound changes which reduce mortality will increase the relative importance of headache for public health.”

The researchers concluded by suggesting that future iterations of this study that are based on data from additional countries with less methodological heterogeneity will help provide stronger support for additional research on the effects and prevalence of migraine.

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 [published online November, 2018]. Lancet Neurol. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(18)30322-3.

 
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