The equivalent of 86 million working days are lost to migraines each year and close to £1 billion is spent on healthcare costs associated with the condition, according to The Work Foundation’s Society’s Headache: The socioeconomic impact of migraine report.
Launched by the Houses of Parliament, the report explored the economic cost of migraines since 2003, and calculated its effects on productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism.
The report highlighted that migraines are one of the most common neurological reasons for visiting A&E, affecting more than 23% of adults. An estimated 200,000 attacks happen in the UK every day, it reported.
The research found that the equivalent of 11.4 working days are lost per person to migraines. Additionally, there are other unquantifiable costs such as negative effects on career advancement and potential earnings, it stated.
Common comorbidities include anxiety and depression, both of which are responsible for a significant and increasing number of lost work days. When combined, the direct and indirect costs of migraines are approximately £9.7 billion a year.
The Work Foundation called for better understanding among employers and the wider public, stating that short-term sickness policies do not accommodate the fluctuating nature of migraines. The Foundation recommended that employers give sufferers the autonomy and flexibility to manage their workloads and avoid stress – a common migraine trigger.
It added that patients also need support to improve their knowledge of how to manage their condition. An estimated 15% of migraine sufferers avoid work and socialising to prevent triggering an attack, which is not proven to help and may have a detrimental effect on an individual's overall quality of life.
The Work Foundation’s policy adviser James Chandler said that the condition is treatable if managed effectively.
“Migraine is the most common and disabling headache disorder, which affects more than 20% of adults in the UK. It tends to affect people between the ages of 15 and 49, so strikes at a time when people are at their most productive, affecting their careers, family life and the wider economy,” he said.
“Despite its prevalence and debilitating effects, public and professional understanding of it is generally poor and it is often badly managed by the health system. The condition is normally treatable if managed correctly, so we are calling for the government to introduce measures to improve patient care and increase understanding of the condition.
“Employers also have a role to play. Better working practices would empower people to manage their condition more effectively at work, reducing the impact on individuals’ careers and significantly improving their productivity.”