Who and how many? Migraine Statistics

Migraine statistics don't tell the whole story, but they do give us an idea just how widespread migraine really is. Here are a few recent migraine statistics – you just might learn something new!

Migraine statistics: How many?

Over a lifetime, only 1% of us escape headaches altogether. Over a year, it is estimated that 90% of the population get at least 1 headache. About 16-17% of the population get a migraine headache sometime in their life – that means over a billion people worldwide at some point get migraine. The World Health Organization estimated in 2003 that 303 million people worldwide were migraineurs. A 2004 article suggested that there are almost 20 million migraine attacks happening every day.


A study in the USA focused on the 1980s showed the number of people with migraines rose by 60%. Amazingly enough, it's been estimated that half of these people don't even know that they have migraine, usually believing that they have sinus headache.

In Canada, for example, it's estimated that less than 8% of the population has actually been diagnosed with migraine, suggesting a large number of people who likely think it's something else, or who haven't talked to a doctor (Stats Canada).

Migraine statistics: Who?

25% of women and 8% of men get migraines sometime in their lifetime. About half of these people get their first migraine before the age of 20, and 98% before the age of 50. 5% get migraine before they're 15 years old, and about a third of those get migraine before they're even 5! Most migraines, however, occur between the ages of 25 and 50. According the KidsHealth.org, up to 10% of children between 5 and 15 may experience migraine. Before puberty, girls and boys are almost equal in the migraines they suffer, possibly due to the estrogen changes that women go through at various stages in life. About 70% have some other close (first degree) relative with migraine.

And now for an odd migraine statistic: Neurologists get far more than anyone else – about 57% get a migraine sometime in their life. Now there's a job I don't want!

Migraine statistics: Symptoms

Contrary to popular belief, only 60% of migraines are one-sided. 15% of people with migraine always get migraine on the same side. Children are more likely to have pain on both sides. 85% are described as pulsing or throbbing. 62% last longer than 24 hours (if not treated), but they may last less than an hour in children. 80% of migraineurs deal with nausea, but only 30% actually throw up. 80% are sensitive to light and noise, most often light. 45% have autonomic symptoms, which include congestion or redness of the eye. 10% get a warning to their migraine known as the prodromal stage.

Migraine statistics: Triggers

85% of migraineurs could report something that triggers the migraine. These include weather (up to 50%), missing a meal (40%), stress (about 50%), alcohol (50%) and various types of food (45%). About 50% of women report menses as a trigger. A recent study showed that over 50% considered crying to be a trigger.

Migraine statistics: How often?

38% of migraineurs suffer from 1-12 each year. 38% get 1-3 a month. 37% get 1 per week, and 11% get 2-6 a week.

Migraines cause losses into the millions and billions when people start missing work. 90% of this problem comes from those with severe migraines; many people with less severe pain plunge ahead. However, even this causes a loss of productivity. Dr Walter Stewart of Geisinger Health Systems in Pennsylvania says that over any 2 weeks 1 in 8 people are losing productive time from some kind of pain. If this is you, you're certianly not alone!


These headache stats are taken from various sources, but most notably the WebMD site with migraine statistics specifically the Scientific American paper on headache by Dr. Rudolph W. Evans.


Are you or is someone you know dealing with migraine? Check out the free monthly ezine, HeadWay for more helpful tips and research!