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86 Million Workdays Lost Annually to Migraine in the UK


Combined, migraine-related absenteeism and presenteeism is responsible for 86 million lost workdays and costs £8.8 billion annually.

Migraine costs the United Kingdom (UK) economy £8.8 billion annually in lost productivity, according to a new report.1

In the UK, migraines affect 23.3% of adults and are responsible for 5.9% of total years lived with disability, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2016 estimate.2 In addition to the frequency and pain of migraine attacks, worry about the next attack and avoidance of triggers provide a significant burden for those who experience migraine and often result in lost work days.

“The indirect costs associated with migraine due to lost productivity, mainly through absenteeism and reduced effectiveness at work (presenteeism), are substantial,” wrote the authors of the report. “Yet, despite its significant socioeconomic impact, migraine is neglected.”

According to the authors, the most recent data shows an average of 5.7 days lost per person with migraine. Based on the prevalence of migraine, the average days lost per person, and the average daily wage, the authors estimated that 43 million workdays are lost each year in the UK to migraine-related absenteeism alone, with a cost of nearly £4.4 billion in lost productivity.

To calculate presenteeism, the authors used data from a study that had 122 people with migraine complete a daily diary over a 3-month period. Results showed a mean effectiveness of 59% on days with migraine, equating to 5.6 days lost each year due to reduction in work effectiveness. From this data, combined with the 23.3% prevalence of migraine in the UK, the authors estimated that another 43 million workdays are lost, costing another £4.4 billion.

Combined, migraine-related absenteeism and presenteeism is responsible for 86 million lost workdays annually and costs £8.8 billion. Using a more conservative calculation of a 15% prevalence, based on older European reports, the authors estimated that a total of 55 million days are lost at a cost of more than £5.6 billion per year.

Despite the scale of these costs, employers and governments typically underestimate the indirect economic impact of migraine, according to the authors. This is largely attributable to the fact that people tend to underreport absence and reduced effectiveness at work.

The authors provided several recommendations to pave a path forward in easing this burden:

  1. Improving care: there are several barriers to optimal care preventing efficient and effective treatment and management of people with migraine.
  2. Improving patient and public understanding: many people with migraine may not recognize they have migraine and self-manage their headache inappropriately, or despite knowing they have migraine, treat it inappropriately due to lack of reliable information.
  3. Improving health-related outcomes: employers’ understanding of migraine is poor, which makes it difficult for people with migraine to get adjustments and can inhibit their effectiveness at work.


1. The Work Foundation. Society’s headache: the socioeconomic impact of migraine. April 2018. theworkfoundation.com/wf-reports/?societys-headache-the-socioeconomic-impact-of-migraine/.

2. Vos T, Abajobir A, Abate, K, et al; GBD 2016 Disease and Injury Incidence and Prevalence Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. Lancet. 2017;390(10100):1211-1259. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32154-2.

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