New Survey Finds Migraine Takes a Major Toll on Work, School, and Social Life

— Frustrated Patients Seek More Effective Treatments —

September 7, 2017

A new Health Union survey of people currently diagnosed with migraine finds nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents report their education and/or career had been affected by the condition.

More than 4,500 participants responded to the online survey, “Migraine In America 2017,” which was conducted from April-May 2017.

Approximately 37 million Americans suffer from migraine, with the World Health Organization estimating that 18 percent of women and 7 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from the condition.

Migraine negatively affects all aspects of life, respondents reported, including the ability to work, attend school, and participate in social activities. One-fourth (26 percent) of those surveyed said they required employment accommodations, reduced work hours (23 percent), or used medical leave (22 percent) due to migraine. Eighteen percent said they had voluntarily stopped working due to migraine, with 15 percent indicating they had lost a job because of the condition.

Additionally, survey participants indicated they had cut back on participating in hobbies or other activities due to migraine and felt their family, friends, or colleagues did not understand their condition.

“Health Union’s Migraine In America surveys are the perfect complement to the stories and experience we provide as advocates,” said patient advocate Lisa Benson. “I reference them when appropriate, not just in writing and video blogs, but also in conversations ‘on the street’ when I am in a scenario where I need to advocate or educate about migraine.”

Migraine attack symptoms typically experienced by a majority of respondents included head pain (91 percent), sensitivity to light (87 percent), sensitivity to sound (80 percent), and difficulty concentrating (73 percent). Nine out of 10 respondents (92 percent) said they experienced some form of “cognitive anxiety” associated with migraine, meaning their ability to think can become impaired, leading to confusion, memory loss, or an inability to focus due to pain and other symptoms.

Regarding medical treatment, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents said abortive/acute prescription migraine medications were the most commonly used, followed by over-the-counter pain medications (50 percent), preventive medications (49 percent), and rescue medications (47 percent). Survey participants also noted that side effects played a key role in their avoidance or stopping use of a medication.

“Our findings underscore the demand for more effective treatments,” said Health Union Senior Vice President, Insights, Anna McClafferty.  “Many respondents reported using everything from prescription medications to natural treatments to manage migraine, often with less than satisfactory results. There is an ongoing interest in trying new approaches to treat and prevent migraine, including participating in clinical trials.”

A summary infographic of the survey results. Additional survey details are available upon request; email