Headaches are among the most common health problems worldwide. According to a comprehensive review of 357 prevalence studies whose findings have been published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, 52% of the world population is affected by a headache disorder every year, and 14% of these disorders are migraines.
The authors, who work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, also estimated that on any given day 15.8% of the world population has had a headache disorder.
The conclusions also confirmed gender-based differences, with all types of headaches more common among women than men. Migraines affected 17% of women compared with 8.6% of men; recurring headaches for 15 or more days out of each month affected 6% of women and 2.9% of men.
However, the researchers also admitted that studies on headache prevalence can vary greatly and that the vast majority of the ones they analyzed, which spanned the years 1961 to 2020, were conducted in high-income countries, which may not reflect the reality of other nations.
Lars Jacob Stovner, the main author of the analysis, said that data collection methods must be improved in order to confidently state whether migraines are on the rise or not. “What is clear is that overall, headache disorders are highly prevalent worldwide and can be a high burden,” he said.
The goal of the analysis was to assess the impact of a condition that is not always measured with great precision, and help determine an adequate public healthcare response. According to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study, headache disorders are one of the major public health concerns globally. This study shows that migraines are the second cause of disability worldwide and the first for women under 50.