Home > Headaches > The Cost of Headaches in the UK

The Cost of Headaches in the UK

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 25 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Headache Headaches Tension Headaches

Everyone has a headache at some point but if you suffer from regular tension headaches or migraines that get in the way of your life and work, they can be painful in more ways than one. The economic cost of headaches is something that few of us take time to consider but the facts and figures make interesting reading, particularly for migraine headaches.

Migraines strike people often, more than 12 times a year being usual, and the headache experienced is severe and often disabling. Many people have to lie down in a dark room to recover. It is also usual for a migraine to last about 24 hours – but some are more long lasting, causing great disruption to normal activities.

The Economic Costs of Migraine

Migraine is one of the most common headaches in the UK and the costs of diagnosing and treating are close to £150 million every year. This covers visits to GPs and other health professionals and the cost of drugs prescribed to treat migraine. However, the total costs of migraine are far more than this – a staggering £2.25 billion every year in terms of lost economic output. Migraines are responsible for 25 millions days off work through illness. More money may be lost because of people struggling into work with a migraine but then not really being able to function at full capacity. Estimates put the real costs of migraines and all forms of headache at around £7 billion every year, just in the UK.

The costs of migraine are far greater than the money spent in the UK on treating migraine, which is said to be less than 4% of the overall costs of migraine. Some experts argue that migraine, a readily treatable illness should be given a greater healthcare focus as so much money could be saved by reducing the economic impact of people taking time off work.

The Personal Costs of Migraine

Migraines are often cited by people as a major factor in their career path and work achievements. Because migraine headaches are so disabling, causing an intense dislike of bright light and nausea and even vomiting, this is not an illness that it is possible to ignore. Nearly 80% of people who suffer regular migraines say that their illness impacts on their lives quite severely, reducing their chances of promotion at work, making them more dependent on co workers and also more of a burden to their friends and family. Over 50% of people who have migraine say that their headaches affect their family and just over 25% say it also affects their social life and close relationships.

The Age Range of Migraine

The impact of migraine on the economy is particularly great because of the age range of those typically affected by migraines – the 30-50 year olds. This age group is at the peak of their working lives and, in the case of many women, represent people who are balancing an active working role with looking after young children.

The Costs of Tension Headaches

Like migraine, tension headaches are most common in people aged up to 50 but tension headaches affect people in their 20s as well as their 30s. Slightly less than 20% of people with regular tension headaches find that their head pain interferes with their work. When the pain goes past a certain intensity, they find that they can no longer work and may even need to go home to recover. Tension headaches do not occur as often as migraines – maybe 3 days out of every month – so their contribution to economic losses through work absences is not as great.

The Cost Between Headaches

Although it is possible to provide some rough estimates of the economic costs of migraine and tension headache, what is much more difficult to estimate is the effect that experiencing regular and frequent headaches has in between the actual attacks. Around 8 out of 10 people questioned in a survey in 2007 said that their work was impaired even on days that they didn’t have headache pain – the fear of a headache coming on during a crucial meeting or prior to a ‘big day’ at work was very common.

The World Health Organization’s View

The World Health Organization say that headaches are among the top 20 causes of disabling illness throughout the world and they call for more funds to be put into treating headaches and on research to find out more about their origins and causes.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • bea
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have being having pain on the middle part of my head and when it comes I get dizzy pls what could be the cause and what can I…
    10 April 2017
  • Mumof3
    Re: Headache With Pins and Needles: Is This Serious?
    I have pins and needles beneath my feet, it has been there for three days now- and hasn't gone away.…
    25 March 2017
  • Ms. Haider
    Re: Headaches and Eyesight
    I wear soft contact lenses in the day time and take them out only when I'm ready to sleep. Even then if the contacts are out and I close…
    12 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Migraine Classification
    My daughter has been diagnosed with migraine as she has most of the symptoms, so her neurologist said it was a classic one; He prescribed…
    10 March 2017
  • Alexandra
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I had hit ny head on a table and got a headache and it was getting worse so i went home, in the car i had passes out and my mom…
    10 March 2017
  • Alleycat
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    I have started walking with a headache about an hour after falling asleep.This happens at night or if I am sleeping during the day.…
    10 March 2017
  • Jad
    Re: Headaches and Iron Deficiency
    For the last year I've been getting shooting pains up and down the left side of my head which was diagnosed as trigeminal…
    8 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Headaches Caused by Tensions and Stress
    Hi, My daughter, 16, has been diagnosed with having tension headaches, (via CAT scan and MRI) when she was 11. Since…
    7 March 2017
  • DUNK
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have suffered severe eye, scalp, jaw pain for 5 years. The pain has been so bad I have thought about suicide more than once. The…
    6 March 2017
  • "common-cold antenna
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I've had this pain on my scalp in approximately the same area for a long time ( about 26yrs ). It happens just before I get a bout…
    26 February 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.