Headaches and Migraines: Prevalence and Treatments
News Brief: Headaches and migraines are surprisingly common, new research reveals
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:
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…