The Impact of Chronic Migraine is Debilitating for Both Sufferers and the Labor Force

Jun 25, 2010, 08:00 ET from National Headache Foundation

A new study provides profound evidence of the cost of chronic migraine in terms of lost productive time at work.

CHICAGO, June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new analysis from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study, one of the largest longitudinal studies of headache, indicates that employees suffering from Chronic Migraine (CM) experience increased lost productive time (LPT) in the workplace.  Lost productive time (LPT) is estimated as the average weekly time lost due to an employee being absent (absenteeism) and reduced performance while at work (presenteeism).

Migraine is a neurological syndrome characterized by severe, painful headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and sound.  Headaches may last for hours or even days.  The pain is often on one side of the head and pulsating.  Headaches may be preceded by aura: sensory warning signs such as flashes of light, blind spots, tingling in the arms and legs.  Migraine can be divided into those experiencing headache on average 15 or more days per month (CM) and episodic migraine (EM): headache on average fewer than 15 days per month.  Of the estimated 30 million Americans who suffer from migraine, approximately one million – mostly women – suffer from CM.

Key Findings:

  • Chronic Migraine (CM) is remarkably disabling compared to EM in terms of lost productive time among employed adults with migraine.

Chronic Migraine (CM) sufferers experience greater LPT in the workplace than those suffering from EM. This study showed that in the age interval 35-44 years, the LPT of CM sufferers was 215.3 hours higher per year than those suffering from EM.  The amount of LPT among CM increased over age groups while it remained relatively low and stable among EM.  

  • Chronic Migraine (CM) is more costly than EM in the workplace

This study also found that cost estimates increased for CM across age cohorts while remaining relatively constant for EM.  On an annual basis for those aged 35-44 years, this translated to the LPT for CM sufferers being $5,352.36 higher per year than those with EM.  The average cost of LPT per week was based on 2005 census median income estimates.

According to Dr. Dawn Buse, one of the study's authors and Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of Behavioral Medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center, "The burden of CM is significant in terms of LPT and related costs.  The results from these analyses may even underestimate that burden as these data do not capture those who are unemployed and may have exited the labor force through disability or early retirement, representing a significant loss of trained and skilled people who may exit the labor force early due to the burden of CM."

According to Dr. Richard Lipton, one of the study's authors and Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of the Montefiore Headache Center, "The cost of treatment, whether it be to prevent a headache attack or to treat during an attack, may be considerably lower for employers than the costs associated with LPT.  Additionally, treatments may ease the suffering of employees, while recovering the labor value of experienced and knowledgeable employees burdened by the symptom and work-related impacts of CM."

Dr. Buse advised, "By understanding the findings of this study, assessing the amount of lost work time their organization is experiencing due to migraine, and taking measures to educate and encourage migraine sufferers to seek treatment, organizations could reduce the amount of LPT and related costs due to migraine, and improve the health and quality of life of their employees."

To learn more about CM, please visit the NHF website at or find a headache specialist in your area.

Data from this study has been presented at the 52nd Annual Scientific Meeting of American Headache Society.

About the American Migraine Prevalence & Prevention Study (AMPP)

The AMPP Study is a longitudinal study of US headache sufferers.  The sample is based on data received from nearly 163,000 Americans age 12 and older who were selected in 2004 to be representative of the U.S. population.  Twenty-four thousand headache sufferers, identified from the larger sample, have been followed from 2004-2009 with annual surveys using validated questionnaires for the diagnosis migraine and other headache types, headache symptoms and frequency, headache-related disability, medication use, health services use, medical and psychological conditions, the Work and Health Questionnaire, which is used to measure LPT, among many other topics.

Sponsorship: This study was sponsored through grants to the National Headache Foundation from Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc., Titusville, NJ, and Allergan, Inc., Irvine, CA.

About the National Headache Foundation

The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a non-profit organization which exists to enhance the healthcare of headache sufferers. It is a source of help to sufferers' families, physicians who treat headache sufferers, allied healthcare professionals and to the public. The NHF accomplishes its mission by providing educational and informational resources, supporting headache research and advocating for the understanding of headache as a legitimate neuro-biological disease.  


Richard B Lipton, MD

Vice Chairman and Professor, Department of Neurology

Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health

Lotti and Bernard Benson Faculty Scholar

Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University

Director, Montefiore Headache Center

1165 Morris Park Avenue (Rousso Bldg, Room 332)

Bronx, New York 10461

Telephone: 718-430-3886

Fax: 718-430-3857


Dawn C. Buse, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology

Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University

Assistant Professor, Clinical Health Psychology Doctoral Program

Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology of Yeshiva University

Director of Behavioral Medicine, Montefiore Headache Center

1575 Blondell Avenue, Suite 225

Bronx, NY 10461

Phone: (718) 405-8360

Fax: (718) 405-8369


SOURCE National Headache Foundation