Living with migraine

“I don’t have a career. I have a job that pays my bills – I don’t feel able to pursue a career” (Person with migraine)


Living with migraine can create numerous complications in life, both professionally and personally. It is therefore fundamental that the infrastructure within the health system and among employers is designed to support those with the condition. However, based on testimonies given to the Work Foundation for the Society's Headache report,  people with migraine are not satisfied with their care. 


Presenteeism - the act of working while sick - accounts for nearly £4.4 billion lost from the economy, as estimated by the Work Foundation. This staggering figure reflects the millions of those who remain at work while experiencing a migraine. Going to work while sick should not be accepted as standard practice for any reason, and employers must take action to ensure the workplace is fit to accommodate those with complex long-term health conditions such as migraine. Without improvements, the anxiety those with migraine feel about their jobs and fear of approaching employers will only continue, impacting the millions affected and the economy at large. 


“Because you can only see your GP for 5-10 minutes it feels like you’re getting a ‘oh here you go just try this and get out" (Person with migraine)


As regards the health system, a particular area where those with migraine have felt down is primary care. Many who spoke to the Work Foundation felt their GP did not engage with their condition in a meaningful way and often attributed this to a systemic problem with the health system whereby GPs do not have enough time for them. 


Separate studies have also shown that those with migraine feel that a physician can do nothing to help them: findings from a UK population-level survey found that almost one in four (22%) migraine patients cited this as the reason for never consulting a physician for headache and over a quarter (26%) gave it as the reason for lapsing from care.


Perhaps most worryingly, the number of emergency admissions has continued to rise steadily in recent years. Today nearly all visits to hospital for migraine are via emergency admission (see Figure 5). This could point to a rising burden on the NHS, leaving those affected by migraine unmanaged until they must turn to emergency settings for help.   


 Figure 5



[1] Work Foundation, Society's Headache: The socioeconomic impact of migraine, 2018