Women twice as likely as men to experience migraines or severe headaches

GlobalData Healthcare 30 September 2020 (Last Updated September 30th, 2020 11:58)

Women twice as likely as men to experience migraines or severe headaches

As September is National Pain Awareness Month in the US, GlobalData epidemiologists highlight the latest data on migraines and severe headaches published in late March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data was collected from the National Health Interview Survey, where participants aged 18 years and older were asked if they had experienced a migraine or severe headache in the past three months. In 2018, women were nearly twice as likely as men to have experienced a severe headache or migraine.

According to the CDC data, 20.1% of women compared with only 10.6% of men experienced a migraine or severe headache in 2018. GlobalData epidemiologists expect this sex-specific difference to continue as historical data indicates similar findings (as shown in Figure 1). As such, GlobalData epidemiologists estimate that approximately 14 million men and 26 million women will have experienced a migraine or severe headache by the end of 2020. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines and severe headaches disproportionately affect women likely due to hormones, namely estrogen. Fluctuating estrogen levels are likely responsible for the onset of severe headaches or migraines.

Although CDC data suggest a stable trend in the prevalence of migraines or severe headaches, this condition results in a substantial loss of productivity and places a high economic burden on the US. For example, individuals with migraines or severe headaches are more likely to call in sick or leave work early due to physical symptoms such as nausea or fatigue. Additionally, the number of days spent out of the office can have a negative impact on an individual’s career stability and advancement. GlobalData epidemiologists believe these points illustrate the need for additional research into improved strategies for migraine or severe headache treatment, management and patient quality of life.

Figure 1: US, Total Prevalence of Migraines or Severe Headaches in Ages ≥18 Years, 2015–2018 (%)