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Impact of chronic headache on workdays, unemployment and disutility in the general population


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.

  • epidemiology
  • sickness absence
  • general practice

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