Migraines Can Cost You More Than $27,000 A Year

Almost five million Australians suffer from migraines.

A first-of-its-kind report into the financial burden of migraines in Australia has revealed they cost us $35.7 billion.

Of that figure, $14.3 billion are health system costs, $2.2 billion of which are paid by those suffering from the condition, the Deloitte Access Economics Migraine in Australia paper says.

Released today, the report shows each of the 4.9 million Australians who are hit with migraines -- of which there are twice as many women than men -- can be hit with an individual economic cost of up to $27, 803 each year.

The Real Cost

But accounting for even more of the burden than health system costs including hospital admissions, specialist appointments and medication, is the $16.3 billion in lost productivity.

"The really interesting finding here is that 86 percent of people who get migraines are at peak working age," CEO of Painaustralia Carol Bennett told ten daily.

According to the report, employees with migraine lose up to 30 productive working days per year as a result of both absenteeism or presenteesim, which means having limited productivity at work due to the condition.

Percentage share of total costs by cost component and payer. Image: Migraine in Australia Whitepaper
A migraine is not a just a 'bad headache'

Characterised by recurrent attacks of moderate to severe headaches,  migraines are a neurological condition which can be debilitating. Typically, it's a throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the brain, associated with nausea and vomiting as well as an increased sensitivity to light and sound.

"Often people aren't able to work to the same capacity they would otherwise. Forced early retirement’s a big issue, and we know that people with migraines are a significant proportion of the 40 percent of people who retire early due to an inability to work" Bennett said.

While suffering from a migraine at the age of 23, Victoria Franklin thought she was having a stroke, having lost all feeling on the side of her face and the ability to speak.

"It's had a huge impact on my life," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"In terms of working, at the start of the year I had to take seven months off because I couldn't work anymore, I was too unreliable, I had to take every second day off."

Due to her need for large amounts of rest, Franklin said both her family and social life has been impacted by her condition, as she is unable to spend a great amount of time with her young children or make plans with friends.

Migraine Management

Though there is currently no cure for migraine, there are broad treatment options which differ from case to case, often involving much more than simply taking medication.

Migraines may vary from person to person, but seeing a doctor should be your first port of call.

“One of the first things a lot of neurologists will assess to see if there’s any trigger factors for patients," Dr Karl Ng, a Sydney neurologist, told ten daily.

"These could be foods, hormones things like that and they will try to do whatever they can to avoid those triggers if possible."

As well as potential trigger factors, Dr Ng says lifestyle factors including weight, caffeine intake and sleep patterns should also be taken into consideration.

When it comes to medication, over the counter options are available for infrequent attacks including aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen, while medication taken on a daily basis can be used as a preventative treatment for more intense, frequent attacks.

"We try to emphasise getting the adequate rest you need but also getting the tablets in early if they have an attack because we know, sometimes you can really miss the boat," Dr Ng said.

But Dr Ng says non-pharmacological measures are often emphasised, such as relaxtion, meditation and attention to ergonomics, so as to avoid any potential side effects from medication.