The prevalence of headache disorders in children and adolescents in Ethiopia: a schools-based study
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study establishes headache as the second-highest cause of disability worldwide. Because most headache data in GBD are from adults, leading to underestimation of headacheattributed burden, a global schools-based programme within the Global Campaign against Headache is contributing data from children (7–11 years) and adolescents (12–17 years). This national study in Ethiopia is the first in this programme reported from sub-Saharan Africa. Methods: A cross-sectional survey following the generic protocol for the global study was conducted in six schools (urban and rural), in Addis Ababa city and three regions of Ethiopia. Structured questionnaires were self-completed under supervision by pupils within their classes. Headache diagnostic questions were based on ICHD-3 beta criteria but for the inclusion of undifferentiated headache (UdH). Results: Of 2349 potential participants, 2344 completed the questionnaire (1011 children [43.1%], 1333 adolescents [56.9%]; 1157 males [49.4%], 1187 females [50.6%]), a participation proportion of 99.8%. Gender- and age-adjusted 1- year prevalence of headache was 72.8% (migraine: 38.6%; tension-type headache: 19.9%; UdH: 12.3%; all headache on ≥15 days/month: 1.2%; probable medication-overuse headache: 0.2%). Headache was more prevalent in females (76.2%) than males (71.0%), a finding reflected only in migraine among the headache types. Headache was more prevalent among adolescents (77.6%) than children (68.4%), reflected in all types except migraine, although prevalence of UdH fell sharply after age 14 years to 3.9%. For headache overall, findings matched those in Turkey and Austria, obtained with the same questionnaire, but the high prevalence of migraine, not increasing with age, was surprising. The study highlighted diagnostic difficulties in young people, especially when poorly educated, with migraine diagnoses driven by improbably high proportions reporting nausea (44.8%) and vomiting (28.0%) as usual symptoms accompanying their headaches. Conclusions: Headache is very common in children and adolescents in Ethiopia. This has major public-health implications, since half the country’s population are aged under 18 years.