Migraine Atlas Sheds Light on Chronic Headaches around the World

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Millions of people around the world suffer from excruciating chronic headaches; migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches cause stabbing head pain, nausea, vomiting, stroke-like symptoms, and extreme hypersensitivity to lights, sounds, and scents.  Why then are so many people ignorant to the agony felt by fellow coworkers, friends, teachers, and parents who suffer this devastating illness?


The World Health Organization (WHO) and Lifting the Burden collaborated together to publish the Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011, in the goal of encouraging migraine awareness and more funding for migraine research.

Here are some interesting topics covered in this publication that reflects data collected from Africa, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, South-East Asia regions, and the Western Pacific.


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How many people in the world suffer from chronic headaches?

According to the Census Bureau, there are 6.7 billion people in the world today.  Based on data collected from countries that participated with the WHO research, approximately 10% of all adults suffer from migraines, adding up to 670 million migraine patients around the world- and that figure does not include adolescents.

“Worldwide, migraine on its own is the cause of 1.3 % of all years of life lost to disability”

What percentage of headache sufferers receives a diagnosis?

  • About 40% of people who suffer from severe headache disorders ever seek medical diagnosis and treatment.
  • Among professional consultations for headache treatment, tension headaches and migraine headaches make up the vast majority.
  • Approximately 50% of headache sufferers self-medicate.

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How many hours of training are devoted to headache disorders?

Worldwide, an average of 14 hours of medical training are spent on migraine and other chronic headaches- 4 hours of undergraduate training and 10 hours of specialist training per course. Individual countries that affect the average are the Americas, which offer 25 hours of specialist training, and the Eastern Mediterranean, which devotes a mere 2-hour segment of undergraduate training to migraine research.

“Headache on 15 or more days every month affects 1.7 – 4 % of the world’s adult population, according to these studies.”

What percentage of the population prefers natural migraine treatments?

A surprising number of people all over the world favor alternative and complementary therapy for relieving the symptoms of migraines.   Specific pain therapies discussed were acupuncture, physical therapy, and naturopathic medicine, which encourage the use of herbs, vitamins, and homeopathic tinctures for complete health care.

  • In Southeast Asia, 80% of healthcare providers supported the use of naturopathic treatments for headache disorders, while 60% endorsed the use of acupuncture.
  • In Europe, 68% lean towards physical therapy as a preferred migraine remedy.
  • The African countries are among the least likely to experiment with dietary supplements for migraines.

Read more about migraine awareness:

Migraines at Work- Can my Employers Fire me from my Job?
12 Ways to spread Migraine Awareness without saying a Word
Helping Others Understand Migraines- 8 Communication Tips