Headaches impact 75% of Australian women

Tuesday, 23 May, 2023

Headaches impact 75% of Australian women

A new survey suggests the true impact of headaches on the lives of Australians costs the Australian economy over $35.7 billion annually.

The Australian Chiropractors Association (ACA) launched Spinal Health Week (22–28 May 2023) with the release of a new survey, ‘The Impact of Headaches in Australia’.

Spinal Health Week is Australia’s longest-running national campaign (over 25 years) dedicated to improving the spinal health and wellbeing of all Australians. In 2023, the campaign’s focus is on headaches and what Australians can do to minimise the acute impact headaches have on families, workers and the economy.

According to the ACA, more Australians suffer from migraine or tension headaches than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined with the survey revealing the most common headache triggers being stress and spinal health conditions.

The independent survey commissioned by the ACA reveals that stress is the leading headache trigger for 70% of Australian headache sufferers and 73% of female sufferers.

With more than 7 million Australians suffering tension headaches and 4.9 million suffering chronic migraines, headaches are holding Australians back from living their best life by restricting social activity, concentration and productivity at home and work, resulting in a diminished quality of life for many sufferers.

Dr David Cahill, Chiropractor and President of the ACA said, “The Impact of Headaches in Australia survey shows the disturbing consequences of headaches in the majority (79%) of Australian households, but especially for women.”

The national survey of more than 1000 participants showed more Australian women suffer headaches (75%) than men at 54%, with 73% of women reporting stress as their most common trigger for headaches.

The highest incidences of headaches nationally were reported by women in the 31–40 age bracket followed by women aged 41–50, with 18- to 24-year-old women tying with men aged 31–40.

“With 88% of households aged 18–40 years suffering from headaches and 84% of headache sufferers being working-age Australians (18- to 60-year-olds), it is not surprising the cost to the Australian economy exceeds $35.7bn annually” Cahill said.

“In addition to stress, 58% of Australian female headache sufferers reported poor sleep was a contributing factor with over half of women (55%) reporting neck pain as triggers for headache,” Cahill said.

Significantly, 59% of female headache sufferers experienced headaches every week, with 32% reporting experiencing headaches often (1–2 headaches per week), 21% of female sufferers frequently experienced headaches (three or more per week) and 6% of female sufferers said they experienced headaches daily.

82% of female headache sufferers also reported spine-related pain with headaches compared to 57% of men.

“Headaches relating to spinal health conditions can be cervicogenic (neck-related) while tension headaches and migraines can be triggered by stress, neck and spinal problems,” Cahill said.

“While the annual cost of headaches to the Australian economy is in the billions, ACA’s survey has exposed the true cost to headache sufferers as immeasurable when headaches and migraines have a dramatic and debilitating impact on every aspect of their lives.

“The burden of headaches can rob sufferers of sleep, essential relaxation, social activities, precious time with children, family and friends, and can greatly restrict productivity at home, work and school,” Cahill said.

Of the 514 female respondents, 75% said they suffered headaches, 18% reported their children suffered headaches and 23% said their partner also suffered from headaches.

As a consequence of headaches, Australian women suffer a variety of issues:

  • 74% experienced difficulty concentrating
  • 71% became more irritable
  • 59% lost sleep
  • 58% experienced mental exhaustion
  • 46% experienced physical exhaustion
  • 42% said headaches impacted their ability to work
  • 40% said headaches impacted their ability to perform daily activities.

Furthermore, 24% of women who suffer headaches reported struggling with depression or anxiety as a consequence of headaches, while 23% said headaches impacted their social life.

Headaches impacted women’s ability to engage and play with their children in 15% of cases and over 14% said suffering headaches impacted their relationships with family and friends. Spine-related pain was reported by 82% of female headache sufferers.

Following chiropractic treatment, 86% of female patients reported relief from headaches. 42% reported their headaches either significantly improved or were totally resolved, and 81% reported gaining additional spinal health benefits including relief from back and neck pain, and improvements in mood, sleep, flexibility and energy resulting in improved overall quality of life.

“However, according to the survey, Australians appear to consider headaches to be a ‘normal part of everyday life’ and only treat the symptoms with over-the-counter medications rather than seek professional, drug-free health care to identify and treat the cause which can often be spine-related,” Cahill said.

“What we found troubling is that over 50% of headache sufferers only treated the symptoms by popping a pill rather than consulting a chiropractor to relieve headaches and limit re-occurrence by treating the cause rather than masking an often treatable spinal health condition,” he said.

Image credit: iStock.com/PeopleImages

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