Epidemiology of migraine and other types of headache in Asia

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Abstract

Earlier studies have raised the issue that Asians have a much lower migraine prevalence than Westerners. This article reviews the recent epidemiologic studies of headache in Asia using International Headache Society (IHS) classification criteria. Except for the Korean study and the first Hong Kong study (1992 to 1993), the prevalence of migraine has been quite consistent, ranging from 8.4% to 12.7%. The sex-specific migraine prevalence was 11.3% to 14.4% in women and 3.6% to 6.7% in men. The prevalence of IHS tension-type headache has also been similar among these studies (15.6% to 25.7%). The consistency of the prevalence of migraine and tension-type headache among these Asian countries is interesting in a region where the cultural background and development are so diverse. These IHS migraine surveys show that migraine is a significant disease in Asia and that its prevalence rate is close to but in the low range of the those reported in Western countries. Two surveys of chronic daily headache conducted in Taiwan, one in the general population and the other in the elderly population, have also revealed prevalence rates (3.2% to 3.9%) similar to those of Western countries (3.0% to 4.7%). The geographic or ethnic diversity of migraine or other types of headache could be downplayed if a similar epidemiologic methodology and an identical case definition were used in the surveys among different regions of the world.