4th September 2017

New poll fuels migraine work fears

Bosses get thumbs down on understanding plight of one in seven

New figures released today by three charities, The Migraine Trust, Migraine Action and the National Migraine Centre, signal concerns over lack of workplace support for people with migraine.

Migraine charities - The Migraine Trust, Migraine Action, National Migraine Centre banner

In a public opinion survey, almost two thirds (64 per cent) of UK adults believe employers don’t understand very much or at all about the nature of migraine and its effects on their staff.

And one in five (21 per cent) even think health professionals do not realise the characteristics and impact of the condition on their patients, according to the YouGov poll released in Migraine Awareness Week (3-9 September).

This heightens worries on the issue, since many people with migraine have complained about inadequate backing from bosses.

Each year 25 million days are lost through migraine from UK work or schools, cutting Britain’s economic size by £2.5 billion1

Nine million Britons face migraine – one in seven people2

Today’s survey reveals that 70 per cent are either unsure or do not know whether migraine can be classed as a disability. Under current legislation migraine may be classed as a disability if its severity and frequency impacts your working life.

This is despite the fact that 82 per cent of those quizzed have experienced migraine or know someone who has faced the condition.

Yet the World Health Organisation describes migraine among the most disabling illnesses around the globe.

Earlier research showed that almost one in five people with migraine had lost a job through the condition3.

Among the other findings from the first joint research for the three UK migraine charities:

  • Almost half of UK adults quizzed (49 per cent) believe schools and universities fail to understand migraine’s nature and its effects on their students
  • Less than half of UK adults (49 per cent) correctly thought that children can be affected by migraine.
  • Almost half (46 per cent) didn’t realise that migraine is a genetic condition
  • While there was low awareness of less common symptoms of this complex condition, among the major symptoms 86 per cent of UK adults identified a throbbing headache, 82 per cent sensitivity to light or noise, 77 per cent nausea and 67 per cent seeing coloured spots or flashing lights.

Fiona McKenzie, 33, who lives in London and gets migraine, advises the NHS on patient experience, involvement and person-focused care. She said:

"I've had really variable experiences with employer support. One employer threatened to fire me, if my sickness absence due to migraines didn't improve, despite there being no issues with the performance of my work. It was fixed after I brought it to a director's attention. Equally, I've had some great and understanding managers and employers, who understood I couldn't work when the migraines were at their worst.” Fiona McKenzie, person with migraine

Arlene Wilkie, chief executive at The Migraine Trust, said:

“This YouGov poll signals a wakeup call with the reality that while migraine appears to have touched the majority of people polled, the very debilitating and serious nature of the condition is still not recognised. The findings will strike a chord with many people who get migraine who have received inadequate backing from their bosses, schools and universities. Our charity, together with Migraine Action and the National Migraine Centre, is here to help. We will provide people with everyday support as well as raising awareness of migraine and campaign for people with it to get the support they need in the workplace and beyond.” Arlene Wilkie, The Migraine Trust

Text MIGR17 £10 to 70070 to donate £10 to The Migraine Trust


Press coverage

Notes to editors

  • People with migraine and migraine experts are available for interview.
  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2238 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between  31st July-1st August 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • 1Steiner TJ et al. The prevalence and disability burden of adult migraine in England and their relationships to age, gender and ethnicity. Cephalalgia. 2003;23(7):519-527.
  • 2Steiner TJ et al. Migraine: the seventh disabler. The Journal of Headache and Pain 2013, 14:1.
  • 3The Migraine Trust published its survey of more than 850 people with migraine in February this year, as a response to the green paper.
  • The Migraine Trust funds and promotes research, provides support and information, and campaigns for people affected by migraine.
  • Migraine Action is a charity which provides support to those affected by migraine, whether individuals, families, employers or employees.
  • The National Migraine Centre is a charity devoted to helping people with migraine both directly through its clinics, but also through providing evidence-based information to support health professionals and patients alike in their understanding and management of this condition.

Press enquiries: Contact Paul Collins (The Migraine Trust) Email or 07703 605784.

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