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Work Absence Due to Headaches Has a Substantial Socio-economic Effect

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Just under one in five patients had been absent from work for more than 60 days because of headaches and 10 per cent had been absent for a full year.

Headaches had also had a profound effect on their lives. 29 per cent had changed their place of work because of their headaches, 46 per cent had ruled out particular jobs and 40 per cent said it restricted their career. 58 per cent said they were dependent on their family and friends and nine per cent had decided not to have any more children.

The survey used the same questions as research carried out in Denmark in 2001 on a cross-section of the general public. That found that nearly a third of people had consulted their family doctor because of a headache and three percent had been hospitalized because of headache. "Although the general population results are predictably lower than our specialist sample, the figures do indicate that headaches can have quite an impact on the work environment" says Vinding.

"For example, 90 per cent of our employed study subjects had been absent from work in the last year because of a headache, but the figure for the general population was still 12 per cent.

"Severe and frequent headache is costly, both in terms of direct and indirect costs" concludes Vinding. "The socio-economic effects are particularly felt in healthcare services, sick leave and effectiveness in the workplace. "And people suffering from chronic headache also report significant limitations when it comes to work, family and leisure activities.

"Prevention, early intervention and effective headache strategies for headache disorders may therefore be highly cost-effective, both for the individual and society."

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