Background Data on the socioeconomic burden of chronic headache (≥15 days/last month or >180 days/year) is lacking. This study investigated the impact of chronic headache on sickness absence, unemployment and disutility in the general population in Norway.
Methods 30 000 persons aged 30–44 from the general population were screened for chronic headache by a screening questionnaire. The responder rate was 71%. The International Classification of Headache Disorders was used. We analysed the association of chronic headache with lost workdays, days with ≥50% reduced productivity, sick leave, unemployment and disutility, as assessed with the Short-Form Six-Dimension (SF-6D) in separate regression analyses.
Results Eighty-three per cent (427/516, 79% women) of the eligible participants completed the data on workdays and utility. They reported a mean of 9.7 (SD 24.8) workdays lost over the last 3 months, because of headache. The mean disutility score (1-SF-6D score) was 0.41. Thirty-three per cent were on long-term (>1 year) sick leave. The OR for being on sick leave was 1.9 (95% CI 1.1 to 3.2, p=0.017) for those with secondary compared with primary chronic headache. Similarly, the OR for increased number of workdays lost to headache was 3.5 (95% CI 1.8 to 6.5, p<0.001) and for unemployment 1.7 (95% CI 1.0 to 2.9, p=0.07), for those with secondary compared with primary chronic headache. Secondary chronic headache, high headache frequency and high psychological distress were significantly associated with higher disutility score.
Conclusions The burden of chronic headache in the general population is substantial with high rates of lost workdays and disutility.
- sickness absence
- general practice
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Contributors MBR had the original idea for the study and planned the overall design together with CL. ESK and KS conducted the data analysis. ESK prepared the initial draft. All authors were involved in the planning and interpretation of the data analysis and have commented on, revised and approved the final manuscript.
Funding This study was supported by grants from the South East Norway Regional Health Authority and Institute of Clinical Medicine, Campus Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent Obtained.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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