Primary headache disorders in the adult general population of Pakistan - a cross sectional nationwide prevalence survey.

A. A. Herekar,, Headache Research Foundation of Pakistan, Karachi, Pakistan.
A. Ahmad, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan.
, U. L. Uqaili, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan.
Bilal Ahmed, Aga Khan University
J Effendi, Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan.
S. Z. Alvi, Department of Medicine, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA.
, M. A. Shahab, Aga Khan Medical College, Aga Khan Medical University Hospital, Karachi, Pakistan.
U. Javed, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
A. D. Herekar, Department of Neurology, Baqai Medical University, Karachi, Pakistan.
Rafiq Khanani, Department of Pathology and Microbiology Department at Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan.
T. J. Steiner, Department of Neuroscience, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Edvard Griegs Gate, NO-7491, Trondheim, Norway.


Background: The large geographical gaps in our knowledge of the prevalence and burden of headache disorders include almost all of Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). We report a nationwide population-based study in Pakistan, an EMR country with the sixth largest population in the world, conducted as a project within the Global Campaign against Headache.

Methods: We surveyed six locations from the four provinces of Pakistan: Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. We randomly selected and visited rural and urban households in each. One adult member (18–65 years) of each household, also randomly selected, was interviewed by a trained non-medical interviewer from the same location using a previously-validated structured questionnaire translated into Urdu, the national language. We estimated 1-year prevalences of the headache disorders of public-health importance and examined their associations with demographic variables using multivariate analysis.

Results: There were 4223 participants (mean age 34.4 ± 11.0 years; male 1957 [46.3%], female 2266 [53.7%]; urban 1443 [34.2%], rural 2780 [65.8%]). Participation proportion was 89.5%. Headache in the previous year was reported by 3233 (76.6% [95% CI: 75.3–77.8%]). The age- and gender-adjusted 1-year prevalence of migraine was 22.5% [21.2–23.8%] (male 18.0% [16.8–19.2%], female 26.9% [25.6–28.2%]), of tension-type headache (TTH) 44.6% [43.1–46.1%] (male 51.2% [49.7–52.7%], female 37.9% [36.4–39.4%]), of probable medication-overuse headache 0.7% [0.5–1.0%] (male 0.7% [0.5–1.0%], female 0.8% [0.5–1.1%]) and of other headache on ≥15 days/month 7.4% [6.6–8.2%] (male 4.4% [3.8–5.0%], female 10.4% [9.5–11.3%]). Migraine was more prevalent in females by a factor of 3:2 although this association barely survived (P = 0.039) after correcting for other factors. TTH was more prevalent in males by about 4:3 (P = 0.026). All headache and migraine were age-related, peaking in the age group 40–49 years; TTH peaked a decade earlier. Higher education (P = 0.004) and income (P = 0.001) were negatively associated with prevalence of migraine.

Conclusion: With three quarters of its population affected, headache disorders must be on the public-health agenda of Pakistan. Worldwide, these disorders are the third leading cause of disability; information from specific enquiry into the burden attributable to headache disorders in this country is needed to inform health policy and priority-setting, and will be reported soon.