How common are headaches?
Q: How common are headaches?
A: Headaches are extremely common. The most common type of headache is the "Tension Type Headache". Available data suggest that in developed countries, Tension Type Headache affects two-thirds of men and over 80% of women. Less well recognized is the toll of the chronic daily headache: up to one adult in 20 has a headache every – or nearly every – day.
Migraine has been more frequently studied than other types of headache disorder, and has received a lot of attention – though is less common. Commonly starting at puberty, migraine mostly affects those aged between 35 and 45 years but can trouble much younger people, including children. European and American studies have shown that 6-8% of men and 15-18% of women experience migraine each year. A similar pattern is seen in Central and South America. The higher rates in women everywhere (2-3 times those in men) are hormonally-driven.
Headache disorders are painful and disabling. They can cause substantial personal suffering, impaired quality of life and financial cost. Repeated headache attacks – and often the constant fear of the next one – can affect family life, social life and employment. Despite this, many people – including many health care professionals – tend to perceive headache as a minor or trivial complaint. As a result, the physical, emotional, social and economic burdens of headache are poorly acknowledged.
For the vast majority of people suffering from headache, effective treatment requires no expensive equipment, tests or specialists. Headache disorders are mostly, and rightly, managed in primary health care. The essential components of effective management are awareness of the problem, correct diagnosis, avoidance of mis-management, appropriate lifestyle modifications and informed use of cost-effective pharmaceutical remedies.