Advice Column, Education, Health, Lifestyle

Headaches – A Leading Cause Of Absenteeism

  • The Headache Clinic
  • Category Advice Column, Education, Health, Lifestyle

In a developing economy such as South Africa a healthy work force is vital for future growth. It is therefore not only necessary, but vital to identify causes of absenteeism amongst working-age adults. A recent study found that not only are migraine and tension-type headaches among the most common causes of lost work time, but the prevalence is around the age of 40 – a time when individuals are at the peak of their work abilities.

The study was published in Occupational Neurology and examined the substantial impact of headaches on individual work productivity. Furthermore, it found that it also places a burden on the employers and society in terms of medical costs. The research also indicates a difference in demographics which is also reflected in absenteeism: Approximately 18% of females and 6% of males in the general population suffer from migraines.

Dr. Elliot Shevel, a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the medical director of The Headache Clinic, says chronic daily headaches (which mean 15 or more headache days per month) are a leading cause for absenteeism and it represents a widely accepted stage of pain progression that occurs in 2-4% of the population.

“Treatment of headaches can be acute or preventive. The goals of acute treatment are timely alleviation of pain and associated symptoms without reoccurrence and restoring the ability to function. This also minimizes the use of back-up and rescue medications, and is thus providing the best cost-effective management which will in turn lead to better individual productivity,” he says.

“Migraine preventative medications are used to decrease future attack frequency, severity and duration, improving the response to acute treatment, and improving the overall function of the patient.”

The current study suggest using preventative medications in instances where patients are reporting migraines either 3-6 or more days per month, especially when these are working days. The burden from

letting headaches go untreated also results in societal costs from underemployment and unemployment among those of working age who suffer.

Shevel recommends sufferers should seek professional help when headaches or migraines start to interfere with their functioning at work.  “We have a multidisciplinary team who can apply both acute and preventative treatment.” Contact us on 0861 678 911 or visit our website at to find out more.

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