There is a new target on the World Health Organization (WHO) agenda. The objective is to know the size and burden of headache in all regions of the world. The 'Burden of Headache' as defined by the WHO and their worldwide partnership countries is the amount of productive time that is lost to disability.
This cumulative negative effect of a disease such as headaches on the population on the whole is defined as the burden of bearing the symptom of headaches and the loss of effectiveness in teens and working segments of the population in terms of individual financial burden such as lost pay or days spent absent from school or college.
When it comes to the Middle East and Saudi Arabia, there is difficulty in collecting data because door-to-door surveys do not cover an adequate portion of the population. Let us look at he findings of a study conducted on the prevalence of migraine and non-migraine headache among high school students at the National Guard Housing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Students from four different schools were surveyed and it was found that headaches were common among school students as reported in the range of 25-82%.
- Approximately one-third of the school going students had recurrent headaches. The percentages for recurrent headaches was 33.1%. The figure stayed the same when girls and boys were studied as separate groups with 38.8% for girls and 28.3% for boys.
- The one-third who had recurrent headaches did not have any form of febrile or fever-related illness in the year preceding the survey.
- Migraines were the most common cause of headaches in children.
- Female students showed a significantly higher prevalence than males of migraine, as well as non-migraine headache.
- Migraines were least prevalent among students of ages 16-17 years.
- More than one-third of all students were absent from school due to headache.
- The prevalence was headache increased with age, peaking in the highest age group of 18-19 years. In this age group, the difference between headaches was greater than that at earlier ages, a factor that has been attributed to variations in the age of attaining puberty and the consequent hormonal changes in the body.
Headaches Overlooked in Saudi Arabia
In an earlier study conducted on Grade 1-9 school students, who are younger than the students studied in the survey above, it was found that the prevalence of recurrent headaches was 44%. A study done on the neighboring country of UAE found 36.9% suffering from recurrent headaches. The clear outcome of these studies is that headaches and migraines in children have been underestimated in our culture and eventually headaches have a direct impact on the quality of our lives.