The burdens attributable to primary headache disorders in children and adolescents in Iran: estimates from a schools-based study

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Togha M., Rafiee P., Haghdoost F., Rafie S., Paknejad S. M. H., Amouian S., ...More

Journal of Headache and Pain, vol.25, no.1, 2024 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 25 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2024
  • Doi Number: 10.1186/s10194-024-01789-0
  • Journal Name: Journal of Headache and Pain
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, CINAHL, MEDLINE, Psycinfo, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: Burden of headache, Child and adolescent headache, Eastern Mediterranean Region, Educational policy, Epidemiology, Global Campaign against Headache, Health policy, Iran, Medication-overuse headache, Migraine, Schools-based study, Tension-type headache, Undifferentiated headache
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Background: We recently found headache disorders to be highly prevalent among children (aged 6–11 years) and adolescents (aged 12–17) in Iran (gender- and age-adjusted 1-year prevalences: migraine 25.2%, tension-type headache 12.7%, undifferentiated headache [UdH] 22.1%, probable medication-overuse headache [pMOH] 1.1%, other headache on ≥ 15 days/month [H15+] 3.0%). Here we report on the headache-attributed burden, taking evidence from the same study. Methods: In a cross-sectional survey, following the generic protocol for the global schools-based study led by the Global Campaign against Headache, we administered the child and adolescent versions of the Headache-Attributed Restriction, Disability, Social Handicap and Impaired Participation (HARDSHIP) structured questionnaire in 121 schools, purposively selected to reflect the country’s diversities. Pupils self-completed these in class, under supervision. Headache diagnostic questions were based on ICHD-3 criteria but for the inclusion of UdH (defined as mild headache with usual duration < 1 h). Burden enquiry was across multiple domains. Results: The analysed sample (N = 3,244) included 1,308 (40.3%) children and 1,936 (59.7%) adolescents (1,531 [47.2%] male, 1,713 [52.8%] female). The non-participating proportion was 3.4%. Mean headache frequency was 3.9 days/4 weeks, and mean duration 1.8 h. Estimated mean proportion of time in ictal state was 1.1% (1.4% for migraine, 16.5% for pMOH). Symptomatic medication was consumed on a mean of 1.6 days/4 weeks. Lost school time averaged 0.4 days/4 weeks overall (2%, assuming a 5-day week), but was eleven-fold higher (4.3 days; 22%) for pMOH. For most headache types, days of reported limited activity were several-fold more than days lost from school (45% for pMOH, 25% for other H15+). Almost one in 12 parents (7.9%) missed work at least once in 4 weeks because of their son’s or daughter’s headache. Emotional impact and quality-of-life scores reflected these measures of burden. Conclusions: Headache, common in children and adolescents in Iran, is associated with symptom burdens that may be onerous for some but not for most. However, there are substantial consequential burdens, particularly for the 1.1% with pMOH and the 3.0% with other H15+, who suffer educational disturbances and potentially major life impairments. These findings are of importance to educational and health policies in Iran.