The High Price of Migraines

By: Li Ming Wong

Migraines are expensive. Recent studies show that the chronic, debilitating headaches have a high cost not just for the sufferer, but for their family, and, surprisingly, their employer as well.

Migraineurs (people who suffer from migraine headaches) pay an enormous quality of life cost. Their wallets suffer as well. Health care costs for families with a migraine sufferer are, on average, seventy percent higher than those of families without a migraineur. Migraine sufferers also pay for their pain in lost income. Sometime this is due to unpaid time away from work. Sadly, at other times it is because raises and promotions are not made available to them because they are deemed unreliable due to their condition.

The costs to employers are high, too. In the United States, it is estimated that migraines cost employers over twenty-four billion dollars each year. Half of that amount is indirect costs, things like absenteeism, short-term disability, and worker's compensation. It is estimated that these costs would be even higher if "presenteeism" were included. Presenteeism is the estimated cost of lost productivity that employees with migraines experience while on the job.

Of the estimated twelve point seven billion dollars migraines cost employers directly each year, the number one expense contributor is outpatient care. Outpatient care for migraines costs employers an estimated $6.2 billion annually. It is followed closely by prescription drug costs at $5.2 billion per year, and the remaining percentage is split between inpatient care and emergency costs.

This is not just a U.S. problem. In the United Kingdom, an estimated twenty-five million working or school days are lost annually due to migraines. Costs of absenteeism and lost productivity have gotten so high that employers are being asked to encourage migraineur employees to seek treatment as a cost-saving measure.

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