COST Action CA18218

Aline Anton - Estimating headache prevalence and severity in Germany

Dr. Aline Anton, Department of Epidemiology and Health Monitoring, Robert Koch Institute, Germany is in the burden-eu spotlight to discuss how the BURDEN 2020 study have estimated the prevalence and severity of headaches in Germany.


Why did we carry out our own survey?

The usage of claims data to estimate disease prevalence and severity distributions can be problematic for certain diseases. In this group belongs diseases that involve acute pain attacks, such as migraine, low back pain or neck pain. The benefit of using claims data from these conditions are limited, as people with pain attacks do not necessarily consult a physician. As a result, there is a considerable underreporting when using claims data. This issue is further compounded when looking to estimating disease severity. In the case of headaches, there is usually a lack of information on the medication use and thus it is not possible to evaluate headaches related to medication overuse.

Conducting a survey on headache, low back and neck pain can help overcome these data limitations. The instruments used in the survey are adapted to the Burden of Disease logic in defining the pain disorders and their symptoms, as well as the severity distributions.

What did we focus on?

We have produced an article which gives an overview of headache disorders in Germany. We focussed on the frequency and disease severity of migraine and tension-type headache. In addition, we analysed the social determinants of headache disorders and examined the utilisation of outpatient medical services and use of medication by people with headache disorders.

The data we used was based on a nationwide cross-sectional telephone survey of headache, low back and neck pain, which was developed by the Robert Koch Institute and conducted between October 2019 and March 2020 as part of the project ‘BURDEN 2020 – The Burden of Disease in Germany at the national and regional level’.

Disseminating our results and helping build capacity

We have now shared our initial results on the key epidemiological data on the prevalence and disease severity of headaches. Further evaluations and the calculation of Years Lived with Disability (YLD) for headaches will follow. Additionally, these estimates will also be produced for low back and neck pain.

In order to help others benefit from our work, the BURDEN 2020 team is planning to publish the code book of the survey. We will be happy to answer questions and provide assistance in the development or adaptation of the survey questionnaire.

Further information on prevalence and severity of headache disorders in Germany can be found in the journal publication below.

Porst M, Wengler A, Leddin J, Neuhauser H, Katsarava Z, Von der Lippe E, Anton A, Zeise T, Rommel A. Migraine and tension-type headache in Germany. Prevalence and disease severity from the BURDEN 2020 Burden of Disease Study. Journal of Health Monitoring. 2020;5(S6). doi: 10.25646/6990

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