Headaches and Migraines: Prevalence and Treatments

News Brief: Headaches and migraines are surprisingly common, new research reveals

Robert Roy Britt
3 min readApr 12, 2022

Image: Pixabay/Gerd Altmann

Figuring out how many people around the world suffer headaches is a real headache, given lack of formal reporting, especially in countries without modern healthcare systems. But a new report takes a stab at the pain problem by reviewing 357 studies on “headache disorders,” a range of headache types that recur, as opposed to the rare or occasional variety you might get, say, with the flu or a single particularly bad day.

Here’s the percentage of people globally who suffer one of these conditions in a given year:

14%: Migraine
26%: Tension headache
52%: Any sort of headache disorder

The findings are detailed in the Journal of Headache and Pain.

The problem may be growing

Some previous studies have suggested the prevalence of headaches are increasing, but the findings have not been conclusive.


Today, and on any given day, roughly 1.2 billion people around the world are dealing with a headache, nearly half of them suffering migraines, according to the new review. Migraines are more common in women (17%) than men (9%).

In addition, nearly 5% of people deal with headaches 15 or more days a month. Such extreme frequency is also more common in women (6%) than men (3%).

“The data does suggest that headaches and migraine rates may be increasing,” says study leader Lars Jacob Stovner, PhD, a professor of neurology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. But because the hundreds of studies his team reviewed use different methods, and global data on the topic is far from complete, it’s not possible to say for sure.

Causes and remedies

There are more than 150 types of headaches. They share two common aspects: The pain owes to signals sent to the brain from blood vessels and nerves; and nobody knows exactly how or why these signals are generated. Headaches are often an inherited problem. But there are many other possible causes. Here are…

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB