Epidemiology of tension-type headache

Brian S. Schwartz, Walter F. Stewart, David Simon, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

591 Scopus citations


Context. - Tension-type headache is a highly prevalent condition. Because few population-based studies have been performed, little is known about its epidemiology. Objectives. - To estimate the 1-year period prevalence of episodic tension-type headache (ETTH) and chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) in a population-based study; to describe differences in 1- year period prevalence by sex, age, education, and race; and to describe attack frequency and headache pain intensity. Design. - Telephone survey conducted 1993 to 1994. Setting. - Baltimore County, Maryland. Participants. - A total of 13 345 subjects from the community. Main Outcome Measures. - Percentage of respondents with diagnoses of headache using International Headache Society criteria. Workdays lost and reduced effectiveness at work, home, and school because of headache, based on self-report. Results. - The overall prevalence of ETTH in the past year was 38.3%. Women had a higher 1- year ETTH prevalence than men in all age, race, and education groups, with an overall prevalence ratio of 1.16. Prevalence peaked in the 30- to 39-year- old age group in both men (42.3%) and women (46.9%). Whites had a higher 1- year prevalence than African Americans in men (40.1% vs. 22.8%) and women (46.8% vs 30.9%). Prevalence increased with increasing educational levels in both sexes, reaching a peak in subjects with graduate school educations of 48.5% for men and 48.9% for women. The 1-year period prevalence of CTTH was 2.2%; prevalence was higher in women and declined with increasing education. Of subjects with ETTH, 8.3% reported lost workdays because of their headaches, while 43.6% reported decreased effectiveness at work, home, or school. Subjects with CTTH reported more lost workdays (mean of 27.4 days vs 8.9 days for those reporting lost workdays) and reduced-effectiveness days (mean of 20.4 vs 5.0 days for those reporting reduced effectiveness) compared with subjects with ETTH. Conclusions. - Episodic tension-type headache is a highly prevalent condition with a significant functional impact at work, home, and school. Chronic tension-type headache is much less prevalent than ETTH; despite its greater individual impact, CTTH has a smaller societal impact than ETTH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-383
Number of pages3
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Feb 4 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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