Migraine is typically characterised by recurring headaches and throbbing pain on one side of the head, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to light or smell. While most people experience episodic migraines, a small percentage suffers from chronic migraine.

Migraine is usually associated with other conditions such as stroke, high blood pressure, depression, panic disorder, and suicide. Migraine is a common condition, affecting approximately 11% of the world’s adult population, with prevalence in women considerably higher than in men.

GlobalData epidemiologists calculated that in the seven major markets (7MM) of the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Japan there were 73,914,635 total prevalent cases (diagnosed and undiagnosed) of migraine in adults 18 years and older in 2016. The US had the most cases with 30,233,942, making up 40.90% of cases in the 7MM. The number of total prevalent cases of migraine in the 7MM is expected to grow to 74,543,569 by 2026, at an annual growth rate of 0.09%.

Migraine was predominant in women in all of the 7MM. In 2016, women made up 74.75% of total prevalent migraine cases in the 7MM, with 55,253,773 women experiencing migraine. The greatest disparity was seen in Japan, where 81.28% of migraine cases (5,326,506) occurred in women. The most even burden of migraine was in Spain, where 69.05% of cases (1,518,939) were in women. Figure 1 presents the sex-specific cases of migraine in the 7MM in 2016.

Migraine is surprisingly common in women, with researchers suggesting that 18%-25% of the female population suffer from migraine in their lifetime. Women also suffer from severe and chronic forms of migraine more commonly than men. Migraine is also more common in ages 18 to 55 years, when people are at their most productive phase in life.

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There is no definitive explanation for the higher prevalence of migraine in women. However, the association between hormones (estrogen) and migraine has been reported, which experts have long believed is an important factor. Studies have also reported a difference in brain patterns and mechanisms in the development of migraine attacks in men and women.

The high prevalence and disabling effects of migraine make it a major economic burden on both individuals and nations. The US faces an annual direct cost of $11bn and an annual indirect cost of $12bn, while the European countries bear a total annual cost of $124bn.

Although studies suggest a stable trend in the prevalence of migraine, the burden of this condition is significantly higher in women. The economic burden and productivity loss associated with the migraine illustrate the need for improved strategies for diagnosis and management, thereby reducing the economic impact and improving the quality of life of individuals affected by migraines.