Migraine costs EU economy €95bn per year

Woman suffering from migraine attack
Woman suffering from migraine attack

Migraine costs Europe an estimated €95bn in lost productivity every year, a new Work Foundation report launched in European Parliament today reveals.

A total of 160million adults across Europe are said to suffer with migraine, with each losing between 2-7 working days a year due to the condition. Those with frequent migraine (i.e. four or more days a month) lose up to 46 workdays per year - with 72% feeling the condition has affected their professional lives, and while 63% reported their condition to their employer, only 18% were offered support.

A new report looking at how employment-related outcomes for people with migraine can be improved in Europe was unveiled at an event hosted by the Council for Advocacy on Migraine inside the European Parliament in Brussels today. Among the audience were patient groups, business leaders, policy experts and key opinion leaders from the clinical field to address the hidden burden of migraine and discuss the opportunity for action at European level.

Globally, 11% of the world’s adult population suffers from migraine, but in Europe, this rises to nearly one in four people. The highest prevalence is in the working age population (30 – 50 years), where it affects almost one in three people. For this group it represents the second most common cause of years lived with disability.

Lesley Giles, Director of the Work Foundation and co-author of the report, said: “We need to reflect on whether enough is really being done through legislation and employment policies across Europe to improve employment opportunities for people living with migraine.

“At a company level, targeted action is needed to ensure employers adopt better working practices that create more good work and healthier work environments, and reasonable adjustments to accommodate people living with migraine need to be enforced. This would not only increase the quality of working lives of people living with migraine, but it will lead to a happier, more productive workforce with significant benefits for the businesses and people involved.”

Co-author of the report, Dr James Chandler, Policy Adviser at the Work Foundation, further emphasised the need for a range of policy measures. He said: “Policy measures need to be grounded in legislation, with coordinated action from EU and national level policymakers working with social partners to influence employers in cooperation with wider stakeholders, like health professionals and industry bodies, to improve the experience of work for people with migraine.”

The report, funded by Novartis international, follows an earlier Work Foundation study commissioned to examine the socioeconomic impact of migraine on the UK. The new pan-Europe study calls on EU institutions, national governments and employers to make migraine a priority, and contribute to improving the quality of life of those affected by it.

The report, Migraine’s impact on employment in Europe: what can be done to improve work outcomes for people with migraine?, draws on the knowledge and expertise of a range of EU and country level stakeholders including healthcare practitioners, workplace innovation experts, social policy specialists, and labour market analysts. It outlines a series of steps for employers to take to create a ‘migraine friendly’ workplace, including:

  • Giving employees increased autonomy and control
  • Flexible working conditions and practices
  • Access to a quiet room and drinking water
  • Effective workplace health management systems

It then calls on policymakers to deploy a range of policy options at EU and Member State level to improve the experience of working for people with migraine. This includes making laws; compelling key stakeholders such as employers to act more responsibly - starting from the minimum legal ‘duty of care’, as well as highlighting existing EU and national strategies; specific employment programmes for people with health conditions; the promotion and dissemination of advice and guidance, as well as awareness raising and campaigning, and the sharing of best practice. It highlights the need to promote ‘migraine literacy’ among employers to, in turn, support a culture of care and better outcomes.

Elena Ruiz de La Torre, President of the European Migraine & Headache Alliance, and Chair of the Council for Advocacy on Migraine, said: “It can be difficult to fully explain just how debilitating an attack can be, but the impact it has on the professional life of people living with migraine is undeniable. Better policy and preparedness could make a world of difference for so many people.

“This Call to Action comes at a crucial time for the European Parliament and the Commission, we need to join forces and address the challenges of migraine sufferers, we need to offer them both access to treatment but also reasonable working conditions including adjustments and flexibility.”

You can download the 2-page infographic summary and full report with detailed recommendations here.

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