Migraine may be digging a $1 billion hole in Singapore's economy, says NUS study


Your chronic headache may be causing your government a loss of billions of dollars, according to a new study, which found that Migraine sufferers caused about $1.04 billion in economic losses in Singapore last year.

According to the local study, productivity loss made up 80 percent of the cost, while healthcare costs accounted for the remaining 20 percent.

People experiencing migraine -- severe, recurring, and painful headaches – miss an average of 9.8 workdays a year, the findings suggested, adding the symptoms greatly reduce their ability to perform tasks, with a productivity loss of 7.4 days each year, for those who continued working in such a condition.

A migraine often progresses through several stages, including symptoms like constipation, irritability and visual disturbances, before the actual headache begins, and lasts between four and 72 hours.

The headache mostly affects people between the age of 30 and 40 years and more common among women than men due to hormonal changes.

The study -- Economic Burden of Migraine in Singapore -- conducted by Duke-NUS Medical School and pharmaceutical company Novartis, examined more than 600 full-time Singapore workers suffering from migraine, and found those having migraines on four to 14 days each month incurred a per capita cost of $14,860 last year.

The loss was $5,040 for those who had migraines on three or fewer days each month, the Strait Times cited the study as saying.

About 60 percent of the overall participants, mostly Chinese, married, and at least tertiary-educated were in managerial positions, with the rest in clerical jobs or semi-skilled or self-employed.

According to Dr. Jonathan Ong from the National University Hospital (NUH), about 100 new patients turn up every month at the clinic for headache disorders and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, with the figure increasing by 10 percent each year.

"It is not surprising because we are increasingly living in a stressful environment, being an Asian country -- we're very work-driven, goal-orientated, spending long hours at work, and stress is a major trigger for migraines," the doctor explained.

Migraine is triggered by certain conditions, including depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, nasal or sinus inflammation, as well as, unfavorable environment, emotions, and food.

The problem can often be managed through a course of medication, including painkillers and Serotonin agonists such as sumatriptan.

Dr. Eric Finkelstein from Duke-NUS Medical School said migraines had long-term detrimental effects on people's work and affect their career progression, as well as their home life.

Researchers, through the findings, hoped to raise awareness about migraines so that more people can be properly diagnosed and workplaces are more understanding of their sufferings.

Another study, whose findings have been published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, identified migraine as "a significant risk factor" for Alzheimer's and all‐cause dementia.