Impact of headache disorders in Italy and the public-health and policy implications: a population-based study within the Eurolight Project
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionThe Journal of Headache and Pain. 2015, 16 (1), 1-9. 10.1186/s10194-015-0584-7
Background Migraine, tension-type headache (TTH) and medication-overuse headache (MOH) are disabling lifelong illnesses. The Eurolight project, a partnership activity within the Global Campaign against Headache, assessed the impact of headache disorders in ten countries in Europe using a structured questionnaire coupled with various sampling methods. Here we present the findings from the Italian population. Methods Questionnaires were distributed to a stratified sample (N = 3500) of the adult (18–65 years) inhabitants of Pavia province (1.05 % of the general population), randomly selected in cooperation with the local health service. Questions included demographic and diagnostic enquries, and assessment of various aspects of impact and health-care utilisation. Results Altogether 500 questionnaires were returned of which 487 were adequately completed for analysis (58 % female, 42 % male). Among these, gender-adjusted lifetime prevalence of headache was 82.5 %, higher in females than in males (91.2 % vs 72.4 %; p < 0.0001). Gender-adjusted 1-year prevalence was 74.2 % (females 87.7 %, males 61.1 %; p < 0.0001). The most prevalent headache type was migraine (gender-adjusted 1-year prevalence 42.9 %; females 54.6 %, males 32.5 %; p < 0.0001), followed by TTH (28.6 %; no gender-related difference); all causes of headache on ≥15 days/month were reported by 7.0 % of participants (females 10.6 %, males 2.0 %; p = 0.0002), of whom 2.1 %,, all female (p = 0.0064) concomitantly overused acute medications (therefore probable MOH). Only 16.6 % of responders reporting headache had received a diagnosis from a doctor, and very few (2.4 %) were taking preventative medications. Headache had negative impacts on different aspects of life: education, career and earnings, family and social life. Each person with headache had lost, on average, 2.3 days from paid work and 2.4 days from household work, and missed social occasions on 1.2 days, in the preceding 3 months. An increasing gradient for impact was observed from episodic to chronic forms of headache. Conclusions Our study reveals that in Italy, as in other countries, migraine, TTH and MOH are highly prevalent and are associated with significant personal impact. These findings have important implications for health policy in Italy.