If you suffer from headaches, you have plenty of company.
Headaches afflict half of the world’s population, and women are more likely to get them than men, a new paper says.
“We found that the prevalence of headache disorders remains high worldwide and the burden of different types may impact many. We should endeavor to reduce this burden through prevention and better treatment,” says study lead author Lars Jacob Stovner, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Headaches are increasing worldwide
The researchers reviewed 357 studies published between 1961 and the end of 2020. They found that 52% of people have a headache within a given year, including 14% with migraine, 26% with a tension-type headache and about 5% with a headache for 15 or more days a month.
On any given day, almost 16% of people worldwide have a headache and nearly half (7%) have a migraine, according to the findings. The results were published April 12 in the Journal of Headache and Pain.
All types of headache are more common in women than men, especially migraines (17% in females vs. about 9% in males) and headaches on 15 or more days a month (6% in females vs. less than 3% in males).
“Compared to our previous report and global estimates, the data does suggest that headaches and migraines rates may be increasing. However, given that we could explain only 30% or less of the variation in headache estimates with the measures we looked at, it would be premature to conclude headaches are definitively increasing,” Stovner said in a journal news release.
“What is clear is that overall, headache disorders are highly prevalent worldwide and can be a high burden. It may also be of interest in future to analyze the different causes of headaches that varied across groups to target prevention and treatment more effectively,” he adds.
Most of the studies in the analysis included adults ages 20-65, but some also included adults older than 65 and children as young as age 5.
What causes headaches?
Headaches, especially migraines, can run in families. Children who have migraines usually have at least one parent who also suffers from them. Children whose parents have migraines are up to four times more likely to develop them too.
Headaches can also be triggered by environmental factors in a family’s household, such as: