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Most of humanity suffers from headaches

 According to science, more than half of humanity suffers from headaches

Headaches and migraines affect one in two people every year and one in six every day, according to a study that collected nearly 60 years of data.

If you experience headaches, pressure in your temples, or pain in your eyes, you are not alone. Headaches are a widespread symptom, affecting 52 percent of the world's population in any given year, according to a new study compiling the available scientific literature on the subject. According to data published Tuesday by the Journal of Headache And Pain, 26 percent are believed to suffer from tension headaches, 14 percent from migraines, and 4.6 percent from recurring headaches for at least 15 days a month...

To arrive at these results, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) collected data from 357 studies published between 1961 and 2020, taking into account a variety of methods, as depending on the study they asked about symptoms experienced over a lifetime, in the last year or only in the last day. The authors estimate that 15.8 percent of the world's population experiences headaches every day. This is almost one in six people.

Women are more affected

Headaches are more common in women (57.8 percent in one year) than in men (44.4 percent). 

"This is probably related to female sex hormones, particularly estrogen fluctuations. In addition, women's living situation may play a role," says Lars Jacob Stovner, professor of neurology at NTNU. 

Most of humanity suffers from headaches

Migraine varies greatly by age, continues the study's lead author: "It can occur in young children, but it is much more common after puberty and is more common in young and middle-aged adults, especially women. After age 60, it is less common, but some people may have it in later life."

The data seem to show that headache gains ground with age. However, the researchers are cautious about this claim and warn that most of the variation observed from one study to the next remains a mystery. The paper explains that many hitherto overlooked factors may be determinants, such as genetics, climatic conditions, light, altitude, stress, or exposure to air pollution. The definitions of headache and migraine may also vary.

Regarding the geographic distribution of the 357 publications used, the authors acknowledge that most of them are from high-income countries with good health care systems. To get a better picture of headaches worldwide, the researchers urge more studies in low-income countries. To better understand the distress experienced by part of the population, they also call for consistent wording of the questionnaires used by researchers working in this field.


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