The £9bn cost of migraine at work

Posted 22 December 2023

Migraine is so much more than just a headache – it’s a complex neurological condition that can cause a range of disabling symptoms. Uncontrolled, migraine can have a devastating impact on relationships, social lives and careers.

For the individual, migraine can result in lost income and productivity. When scaled up to the UK as a whole, it’s estimated that almost £9bn is lost every year to the economy.

Woman with a headache working at a laptop computer

Migraine is the biggest cause of years lived with disability among those aged 15 to 49

Research undertaken by the National Migraine Centre suggests more than 50 per cent of those with chronic migraine feel their employers are not supportive of their condition. The research shows:

  • 25 per cent had to change careers because of their migraines and/or headaches
  • 16 per cent lost their job because of migraines and/or headaches
  • 97 per cent of respondents worked while in pain caused by headache
  • 54 per cent suffer financially due to their migraines
  • Chronic sufferers lose 16.8 days of work per year due to headache-related conditions

The impact of migraine and headaches on work is often unseen, underestimated and misunderstood by employers and can be underplayed by sufferers in order to hold on to their jobs.

Access to effective treatment can minimise the impact on the individual and benefit employers by improving staff wellbeing and boosting productivity.

The cost of migraine to society

Each year in the UK, an estimated £8.8bn is lost to migraine1. According to research undertaken by The Work Foundation2:

  • migraine is the biggest cause of years lived with disability amongst those aged 15 to 49 – a time when people are often at their most productive, furthering their careers and starting families, leading to a major impact on career development and the wider economy
  • 5.7 days are lost per person with migraine every year, equating to 43 million workdays at a cost of almost £4.4bn
  • an estimated additional further £4.4bn is lost to the economy each year due to reduced productivity as those with migraines continue working – many express concern about the negative impact on their careers of taking extended or regular sick leave
  • despite its extraordinary cost to society, migraine is the least publicly funded of all neurological diseases relative to its economic impact

Find out more about how our Employee Wellbeing packages could help support those with migraine in your team.


1, 2. The Work Foundation, Society’s Headache, 2018

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