Headache Gets No Respect

Up to three-quarters of all adults have a headache at least once a year, and daily or near daily headaches affect 2-4% of the world’s population. Women in their 50s have a significantly higher prevalence, especially of medication-overuse (rebound) headaches. The World Health Organization rates a day of severe migraine as disabling as Alzheimer’s or in fact quadriplegia. Whether or not one agrees with that assessment, migraine accounts for 1.3% of all years of life lost to disability worldwide, according to the WHO.

Given the great burden of migraine, it is lamentable that the National Institutes of Health has awarded headache research grants of only 24 million in 2014. Asthma research received 10 times that amount. Research into diabetes received 1 billion and into behavioral and social sciences 3.7 billion.

At least 1% of all people in the United States, thus totalling 3.5 million, are being treated for epilepsy. The societal cost of headaches is 3 times that of epilepsy.

Public awareness campaigns, such as those by the International Headache Society, the American Migraine Foundation, and the WHO’s The Global Burden of Headache, are beginning to improve the funding situation.

See The Lancet Neurology, March 2016, page 242.

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