Headaches, highly prevalent but neglected: UN report

United Nations: Almost everyone in the world suffers from headaches but the problem goes neglected and under-treated, according to a first-of-its kind UN report, which studies headaches.

"Headache disorders are ubiquitous, prevalent and disabling," the World Health Organisation report said.

"Yet they are under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated worldwide," the report said.

"This first global enquiry into these matters illuminates the worldwide neglect of a major public-health problem, and reveals the inadequacies of responses to it in countries throughout the world," it added.

The report said that headaches are felt by almost half of the world`s adults at any time have one or more recent experiences of a headache.

The study found that only four hours are committed to headache disorders in formal undergraduate medical training, and lack of education is seen as the key issue impeding good management of headache.

"Financial costs to society through lost productivity are enormous," it said.

The report pointed out that since headaches inflict people in their late teens to 50s, the health problem leads to loss of working hours and reduced productivity.

In the United Kingdom, for instance, some 25 million working- or school-days are lost every year because of migraine alone.

"While headache rarely signals serious underlying illness, the public-health importance of these headache disorders lies in their causal association with these personal and societal burdens of pain, disability, damaged quality of life and financial cost," the report said.

"The financial costs to society through lost productivity are enormous ? far greater than the health-care expenditure on headache in any country," the report said.

The study found that 50 per cent of people with headaches treated themselves instead of going to a doctor.

The report concluded by urging that health care for headache must be improved.

"Most importantly, health-care providers need better knowledge of how to diagnose and treat the small number of headache disorders that contribute substantially to public ill-health," it said.