Headache Statistics

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More people complain about headaches than any other medical ailment. There are approximately 45 million Americans complaining of headaches each year. That works out to about one in every six people or 16.54% of the population. More than eight million Americans visit their doctor for complaints of headache each year.

A quote often used by actuaries, the experts in statistics, is revealing of the power and danger of statistics: “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

According to Wikipedia, Mark Twain popularized “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." The statement refers to the persuasive power of numbers, the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments, and the tendency of people to disparage statistics that do not support their positions.”

As we discuss headaches, types, and treatments it is important to remember that statistics apply to a population but treatment is directed toward the individual. Statistics are very effective in evaluating conditions with only a small number of variables. Headaches do not fit this model well. Each patient is different, and therefore statistics can only be used as background information during evaluation.

Statistics are important, but please remember to see the whole picture. Find out how Think Better Life can help by calling 1-847-533-8313 for a comprehensive evaluation.


The most common type of headache is the tension headache. It is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the population suffer from tension headaches at least some time in their lives.

There are two categories of tension headaches. Medical definitions are often random and need a cut-off point. Therefore, the difference between episodic and chronic is one day and does not specify how severe a headache is. It is important to remember that patients need to be evaluated as individuals and not stuck into a cookie cutter diagnosis. Treating patients, not tests, is essential.

  • Episodic headaches appear occasionally, specifically less than 15 times per month
  • Chronic headaches occur more than 15 times per month or on a consistent basis over longer stretches of time

Other Statistics

  • 69 percent of males experience tension headaches
  • 88 percent of females experience tension headaches
  • Average age of first onset is between nine and 12 years old


The second most common type of headache is the migraine headache. Around 16 to 17 percent of the population complains of migraines. These headaches are far more debilitating than the typical tension type headaches accounting for more lost time.

  • 25 percent of women suffer a migraine at least once
  • 8 percent of men
  • 60 percent of migraines are unilateral, or present on one side
  • 85 percent report some sort of trigger that kicks off their headaches

Other Statistics

  • 157 million work hours are missed each year due to migraine headaches
  • Average age at onset is between five and eight-years-old


By far, the most painful headaches are cluster headaches. This type of headache appears in cycles that can last hours or days. They present with a sudden onset, and usually go as quickly as they start. Less than one percent of the population suffers these types of headaches.

  • First onset is usually between 20 and 30 years old
  • Average age of victim is 30
  • 69 of 100,000 people suffer from cluster headaches

Going Beyond the Numbers to Improve YOUR Life

Headache statistics are sometimes hard to extrapolate. Some dentists think that the numbers in some studies do not add up. This is primarily due to patients overestimating or miscalculating the number of days and episodes of headaches that actually occur. Most studies simply record how many people seek medical assistance for their headaches and do not attempt to record every headache ever experienced.

If you experience frequent headaches or migraines, contact Think Better Life and world-renowned dentist Dr. Ira L. Shapira by calling 1-847-533-8313 for more specific information on types, treatment and diagnosis.