Migraine headache: Epidemiology and health care utilization

Walter F. Stewart, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Population-based studies of headache can help inform the development of diagnostic criteria. In population-based studies, migraine has been consistently revealed as a common disabling condition that affects males and females of all ages. From data obtained in a national survey of the United States population, we show that the prevalence of migraine and the frequency of attacks increase as household income decreases. Disability from attacks is not related to income. In contrast, physician diagnosis is more likely as household income increases. Moreover, physician diagnosis is more likely among females, older cases, those more likely to experience disability, and migraine sufferers reporting nausea (males), vomiting, and visual and sensory aura. Analysis of our data leads us to conclude that the symptoms most strongly associated with diagnosis may provide the greatest concern and interest on the part of physicians to make a diagnosis, even though other migraine-related symptoms are more common in the population and in clinical settings. Finally, among migraine sufferers with severe disability, a very large proportion do not receive the benefits of medical diagnosis and treatment. Though most migraine sufferers use OTC medications, given the frequency and associated disability of their migraine attacks, current therapy appears unsatisfactory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-46
Number of pages6
Issue number12_suppl
StatePublished - Apr 1 1993


  • Disability
  • epidemiology
  • medical care
  • migraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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