Headache in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Studies

  • Lars Jacob StovnerEmail author
  • Emma Nichols
  • Timothy J. Steiner
  • Theo Vos
Part of the Headache book series (HEAD)


The significance of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) studies for recognition of headache as a major public-health concern cannot be overrated.

GBD aims to provide a scientific basis for prioritizations of health investments, decoupling these decisions from professional and commercial interests. It measures disease burden in time units: as years of life lost (YLLs) to a disease (through early mortality), as years of life lived with disability (YLDs), and as the sum of these, expressed as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). YLDs are estimated as the number of years lived with a disorder (or with a health state attributable to it) multiplied by a disability weight (DW) for that disorder (or health state). YLDs are highly relevant to headache disorders whereas YLLs are not.

Through extensive mathematical modelling, GBD can make use of a wide range of data, allowing estimation of disease prevalence and burden for each gender and all age groups, for all major world regions, nations and, sometimes, areas within countries, for the years from 1990 until 2017 (so far).

GBD is now updated annually. In GBD2016, migraine affected more than one billion people globally, caused 45 million YLDs and was the second most disabling condition worldwide. Among young adults (under 50 years of age), it was the most disabling. Tension-type headache affected 1.9 billion people but, owing to its much lower DW, was estimated to cause only seven million YLDs.


Headache Global burden of disease (GBD) Years lived with disability (YLD) Years of life lost (YLL) Disability-adjusted life years (DALY) Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Jacob Stovner
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Emma Nichols
    • 3
  • Timothy J. Steiner
    • 1
    • 4
  • Theo Vos
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Neuromedicine and Movement ScienceNTNU Norwegian University of Science and TechnologyTrondheimNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Advisory Unit on Headaches, Department of Neurology and Clinical NeurophysiologySt Olavs University HospitalTrondheimNorway
  3. 3.Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)University of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.Division of Brain SciencesImperial College LondonLondonUK

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