Migraines - Building a Business Case

Migraine Management Toolkit

Economics & Employer Impacts

How data can help


1 in 4

U.S. households include someone with migraine


the risk of children having migraine if both parents have it


migraine is three times more common in women than men


say migraine interferes with education, career or social activities

Background: About Migraine

Millions of American adults and children suffer from migraine. In fact, the World Health Organization ranked migraine as one of the ten most disabling illnesses and the third most common medical disorder on the planet. A disproportionate number of women in the U.S. suffer from migraine as compared men. According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraine affects more than 30/% of women over their lifetime. The condition, which tends to run in families, also has a strong yet poorly understood genetic component.

Migraine is a medical condition that is misunderstood by many. There is a general lack of awareness about the seriousness of migraine and a stigma around the condition that is no doubt tied to this lack of awareness. Common myths include the mistaken belief that people with migraine are lazy, exaggerating their symptoms and/or are simply unable to cope. As a result, many migraineurs hide their condition – especially from their employer and co-workers.

Although often thought of as a bad headache and not a “real” disease, migraine is a complex, disabling, recurring neurological disorder.

Migraine is characterized by throbbing or pulsing pain starting on one side of the head and often accompanied by a variety of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to light, sound and touch. There is a wide spectrum when it comes to duration of migraines and impact on daily functioning. Some last for hours and others for days. According to the International Headache Society, those who have 14 or fewer migraine days per month have episodic migraines, while those with chronic migraines have 15 or more migraines per month over the course of three months.

Attacks can be caused by a number of factors, known as triggers, including hormonal changes, stress/anxiety, food choices, the environment and other medical conditions. Learn more about what causes migraine.

Important Information

Types of Migraines:

The majority of migraineurs experience "migraine without aura," the most common type. An aura is a type of warning sign that a migraine is coming on. Still, there is no typical migraine. Find out more from the American Migraine Foundation about the different types of migraines. 

Diagnosis and Treatment:

More than half of all migraineurs are not diagnosed and those who do seek medical care are often misdiagnosed. People with migraine often turn to over-the-counter medications for relief and some consult a doctor if symptoms become severe. Learn more from the Mayo Clinic on diagnosing and treating migraine. 


For many, migraine is associated with other chronic conditions or co-morbidities. Nearly 90% of people with chronic migraines have at least one additional chronic condition. According to a 2018 study, about one-third of employees treated for migraine also had obesity and one in five had mood disorders, back pain, anxiety disorders, and hypertensive disease. The cost of treating chronic migraines increases significantly when the individual has one or more additional chronic condition. Learn more about migraines and comorbidities. 


Migraine cannot be cured, so the main objective is to reduce the frequency and severity. Many sufferers can do this successfully by managing their environment, including factors that trigger an attack. Those with more frequent migraines may need preventive medications or medications to treat the symptoms. This decision should be made between the individual and their doctor after reviewing all options. Find more information on migraine triggers, prevention and types of medications.