In the absence of reliable data on the prevalence and burden of primary headache disorders in the mainland of China, a population-based survey was initiated by Lifting The Burden: the Global Campaign against Headache. Throughout all regions of China, 5041 non-related adult respondents aged 18-65 years were randomly sampled from the general population according to the expanded programme on immunization method established by World Health Organization. They were visited by door-to-door calling and surveyed using the structured questionnaire developed by Lifting The Burden, translated into Chinese and adapted to Chinese culture after a pilot study. The responder rate was 94.1%.The estimated 1-year prevalence of primary headache disorders was 23.8% (95%confidence interval 22.6-25.0%), of migraine 9.3% (95% confidence interval 8.5-10.1%), of tension-type headache (TTH) 10.8%(9.9-11.6%), and of chronic daily headache (CDH) 1.0% (0.7-1.2%). Of respondents with migraine, TTH, and CDH, moderate or severe impact and therefore high need for effective medical care were reported by 38.0%, 23.1%, and 47.9%, respectively.The World Health Organization quality of life-8 questionnaire showed that all 3 types of headache reduced life quality. The total estimated annual cost of primary headache disorders, including migraine,TTH, and CDH was CNY 672.7 billion, accounting for 2.24% of gross domestic product (GDP) (direct cost: CNY 108.8 billion, 0.36% of GDP; indirect cost: CNY 563.9 billion, 1.88%of GDP). The prevalence of primary headaches is high in China and not dissimilar from the world average. These headaches cause disability, impair work, study and daily activities, decrease life quality, and bring about a heavy and hitherto unrecognized socioeconomic burden.