+1 Recommend
0 collections
      • Record: found
      • Abstract: found
      • Article: found
      Is Open Access

      The global prevalence of headache: an update, with analysis of the influences of methodological factors on prevalence estimates


      Read this article at

          There is no author summary for this article yet. Authors can add summaries to their articles on ScienceOpen to make them more accessible to a non-specialist audience.



          According to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, headache disorders are among the most prevalent and disabling conditions worldwide. GBD builds on epidemiological studies (published and unpublished) which are notable for wide variations in both their methodologies and their prevalence estimates.

          Our first aim was to update the documentation of headache epidemiological studies, summarizing global prevalence estimates for all headache, migraine, tension-type headache (TTH) and headache on ≥15 days/month (H15+), comparing these with GBD estimates and exploring time trends and geographical variations. Our second aim was to analyse how methodological factors influenced prevalence estimates.


          In a narrative review, all prevalence studies published until 2020, excluding those of clinic populations, were identified through a literature search. Prevalence data were extracted, along with those related to methodology, world region and publication year. Bivariate analyses (correlations or comparisons of means) and multiple linear regression (MLR) analyses were performed.


          From 357 publications, the vast majority from high-income countries, the estimated global prevalence of active headache disorder was 52.0% (95%CI 48.9–55.4), of migraine 14.0% (12.9–15.2), of TTH 26.0% (22.7–29.5) and of H15+ 4.6% (3.9–5.5). These estimates were comparable with those of migraine and TTH in GBD2019, the most recent iteration, but higher for headache overall. Each day, 15.8% of the world’s population had headache. MLR analyses explained less than 30% of the variation. Methodological factors contributing to variation, were publication year, sample size, inclusion of probable diagnoses, sub-population sampling (e.g., of health-care personnel), sampling method (random or not), screening question (neutral, or qualified in severity or presumed cause) and scope of enquiry (headache disorders only or multiple other conditions). With these taken into account, migraine prevalence estimates increased over the years, while estimates for all headache types varied between world regions.


          The review confirms GBD in finding that headache disorders remain highly prevalent worldwide, and it identifies methodological factors explaining some of the large variation between study findings. These variations render uncertain both the increase in migraine prevalence estimates over time, and the geographical differences. More and better studies are needed in low- and middle-income countries.

          Supplementary Information

          The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s10194-022-01402-2.

          Related collections

          Most cited references30

          • Record: found
          • Abstract: found
          • Article: found

          Years lived with disability (YLDs) for 1160 sequelae of 289 diseases and injuries 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010

          Non-fatal health outcomes from diseases and injuries are a crucial consideration in the promotion and monitoring of individual and population health. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) studies done in 1990 and 2000 have been the only studies to quantify non-fatal health outcomes across an exhaustive set of disorders at the global and regional level. Neither effort quantified uncertainty in prevalence or years lived with disability (YLDs). Of the 291 diseases and injuries in the GBD cause list, 289 cause disability. For 1160 sequelae of the 289 diseases and injuries, we undertook a systematic analysis of prevalence, incidence, remission, duration, and excess mortality. Sources included published studies, case notification, population-based cancer registries, other disease registries, antenatal clinic serosurveillance, hospital discharge data, ambulatory care data, household surveys, other surveys, and cohort studies. For most sequelae, we used a Bayesian meta-regression method, DisMod-MR, designed to address key limitations in descriptive epidemiological data, including missing data, inconsistency, and large methodological variation between data sources. For some disorders, we used natural history models, geospatial models, back-calculation models (models calculating incidence from population mortality rates and case fatality), or registration completeness models (models adjusting for incomplete registration with health-system access and other covariates). Disability weights for 220 unique health states were used to capture the severity of health loss. YLDs by cause at age, sex, country, and year levels were adjusted for comorbidity with simulation methods. We included uncertainty estimates at all stages of the analysis. Global prevalence for all ages combined in 2010 across the 1160 sequelae ranged from fewer than one case per 1 million people to 350,000 cases per 1 million people. Prevalence and severity of health loss were weakly correlated (correlation coefficient -0·37). In 2010, there were 777 million YLDs from all causes, up from 583 million in 1990. The main contributors to global YLDs were mental and behavioural disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, and diabetes or endocrine diseases. The leading specific causes of YLDs were much the same in 2010 as they were in 1990: low back pain, major depressive disorder, iron-deficiency anaemia, neck pain, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, anxiety disorders, migraine, diabetes, and falls. Age-specific prevalence of YLDs increased with age in all regions and has decreased slightly from 1990 to 2010. Regional patterns of the leading causes of YLDs were more similar compared with years of life lost due to premature mortality. Neglected tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and anaemia were important causes of YLDs in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of YLDs per 100,000 people have remained largely constant over time but rise steadily with age. Population growth and ageing have increased YLD numbers and crude rates over the past two decades. Prevalences of the most common causes of YLDs, such as mental and behavioural disorders and musculoskeletal disorders, have not decreased. Health systems will need to address the needs of the rising numbers of individuals with a range of disorders that largely cause disability but not mortality. Quantification of the burden of non-fatal health outcomes will be crucial to understand how well health systems are responding to these challenges. Effective and affordable strategies to deal with this rising burden are an urgent priority for health systems in most parts of the world. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
            • Record: found
            • Abstract: found
            • Article: not found

            The global burden of headache: a documentation of headache prevalence and disability worldwide.

            This study, which is a part of the initiative 'Lifting The Burden: The Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache Worldwide', assesses and presents all existing evidence of the world prevalence and burden of headache disorders. Population-based studies applying International Headache Society criteria for migraine and tension-type headache, and also studies on headache in general and 'chronic daily headache', have been included. Globally, the percentages of the adult population with an active headache disorder are 46% for headache in general, 11% for migraine, 42% for tension-type headache and 3% for chronic daily headache. Our calculations indicate that the disability attributable to tension-type headache is larger worldwide than that due to migraine. On the World Health Organization's ranking of causes of disability, this would bring headache disorders into the 10 most disabling conditions for the two genders, and into the five most disabling for women.
              • Record: found
              • Abstract: found
              • Article: found
              Is Open Access

              Global, regional, and national burden of migraine and tension-type headache, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

              Summary Background Through the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) studies, headache has emerged as a major global public health concern. We aimed to use data from the GBD 2016 study to provide new estimates for prevalence and years of life lived with disability (YLDs) for migraine and tension-type headache and to present the methods and results in an accessible way for clinicians and researchers of headache disorders. Methods Data were derived from population-based cross-sectional surveys on migraine and tension-type headache. Prevalence for each sex and 5-year age group interval (ie, age 5 years to ≥95 years) at different time points from 1990 and 2016 in all countries and GBD regions were estimated using a Bayesian meta-regression model. Disease burden measured in YLDs was calculated from prevalence and average time spent with headache multiplied by disability weights (a measure of the relative severity of the disabling consequence of a disease). The burden stemming from medication overuse headache, which was included in earlier iterations of GBD as a separate cause, was subsumed as a sequela of either migraine or tension-type headache. Because no deaths were assigned to headaches as the underlying cause, YLDs equate to disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs). We also analysed results on the basis of the Socio-demographic Index (SDI), a compound measure of income per capita, education, and fertility. Findings Almost three billion individuals were estimated to have a migraine or tension-type headache in 2016: 1·89 billion (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 1·71–2·10) with tension-type headache and 1·04 billion (95% UI 1·00–1·09) with migraine. However, because migraine had a much higher disability weight than tension-type headache, migraine caused 45·1 million (95% UI 29·0–62·8) and tension-type headache only 7·2 million (95% UI 4·6–10·5) YLDs globally in 2016. The headaches were most burdensome in women between ages 15 and 49 years, with migraine causing 20·3 million (95% UI 12·9–28·5) and tension-type headache 2·9 million (95% UI 1·8–4·2) YLDs in 2016, which was 11·2% of all YLDs in this age group and sex. Age-standardised DALYs for each headache type showed a small increase as SDI increased. Interpretation Although current estimates are based on limited data, our study shows that headache disorders, and migraine in particular, are important causes of disability worldwide, and deserve greater attention in health policy debates and research resource allocation. Future iterations of this study, based on sources from additional countries and with less methodological heterogeneity, should help to provide stronger evidence of the need for action. Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

                Author and article information

                J Headache Pain
                J Headache Pain
                The Journal of Headache and Pain
                Springer Milan (Milan )
                12 April 2022
                12 April 2022
                : 23
                : 1
                : 34
                [1 ]GRID grid.5947.f, ISNI 0000 0001 1516 2393, Department of Neuromedicine and Movement Science, , NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, ; Trondheim, Norway
                [2 ]GRID grid.52522.32, ISNI 0000 0004 0627 3560, Department of Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology, , Norwegian Advisory Unit on Headache, St Olavs University Hospital, ; Trondheim, Norway
                [3 ]GRID grid.5947.f, ISNI 0000 0001 1516 2393, NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology, ; Trondheim, Norway
                [4 ]Tjörns Headache Clinic, Rönnäng, Sweden
                [5 ]GRID grid.7445.2, ISNI 0000 0001 2113 8111, Division of Brain Sciences, Imperial College London, ; London, UK
                Author information
                © The Author(s) 2022

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

                : 16 December 2021
                : 9 February 2022
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100009123, Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet;
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100011769, St. Olavs Hospital Universitetssykehuset i Trondheim;
                Review Article
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2022

                Anesthesiology & Pain management
                headache,methodology,migraine,prevalence,narrative review,tension-type headache,global campaign against headache


                Comment on this article