Migraines Cause Significant Workplace Burdens


Migraines are the leading cause of days lost due to disability, yet many individuals with migraines do not seek care.


Globally, migraines are the leading cause of days lost due to disability and cause significant workplace burdens, according to the results of a recent study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.1

In Asian and Oceanic countries, the estimates of the financial cost to society from lost work hours and reduced productivity are “massive,” the investigators in Japan wrote. Migraine is estimated to affect 8 million individuals in Japan and costs the country’s economy $3 billion in lost productivity annually.

However, many of those who experience migraines may be suffering in silence at work, “resulting in loss of significant productivity in Asian countries with growing economies,” the investigators wrote. Population-based studies in North America demonstrated that presenteeism, which is working while sick, leads to more lost work time than absenteeism.

Identifying and addressing factors that trigger attacks, providing education on self-management options, and providing access to standard of care treatments will help migraine sufferers better manage their condition, improve their ability to get to work or stay at work, and improve their function while at work, the investigators wrote.

For the study, they deployed a research survey on prevalence rates and disease burden associated with headache in the workplace, focusing on an Information Technology (IT) company.

According to the survey of 2458 IT workers, 13% (205 male/123 female) had migraine (M), 53% (1093 male/207 female) had tension-type headache (TTH) and 4% (61 male/27 female) had migraine and TTH (M/TTH).

The number of days when productivity at work was reduced by half or more because of headache was significantly higher in those with migraines compared with TTHs.

Only 5% of migraine patients were prescribed acute medicines and 2% were prescribed preventive drugs. Most (72%) migraine and TTH sufferers said they had not visited a medical institution for their condition, whereas 2.5% of migraine sufferers and 1% of those with TTH said they regularly consult with a medical institution.

Patients revealed that most common reason for not seeking medical consultation was that they did not consider their headache disorder severe enough.

“The stigma faced by employees with migraine is substantial…In this study, individuals with migraine reported a significant lack of understanding of headache in the workplace, impaired relationships due to headache, and guilt about burdening bosses and colleagues with headaches,” the investigators wrote.

“Stigma and lack of awareness of burden of migraine may well explain our data that 72% of individuals did not seek medical consultation for migraine despite the fact that 63% of patients indicated that they could not cope with their illness,” they added.

Notably, the economic loss due to absenteeism for migraine was calculated at around $238 per personper year for day-off and $90 per year per person for half-day off using migraine disability assessment score (MIDAS). The economic loss due to presenteeism for migraine was calculated to be $375.4 per year per person using MIDAS and $2.217 per year per person using work productivity and activity impairment questionnaire (WPAI).

The overall estimated cost of productivity loss associated with presenteeism in Japan was a whopping $21.3 billion.

“This study revealed a high prevalence and disease burden among employees with migraine that is associated with substantial losses in productivity and employer cost,” the investigators wrote. “These results support the development and implementation of workplace programs to improve migraine management in the workplace and reduce the burden and costs associated with lost workplace productivity.”


1. Shimizu T, Sakai F, Miyake H, et al. Disability, quality of life, productivity impairment and employer costs of migraine in the workplace. J Headache Pain. April 27, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-021-01243-5

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