About Migraine/

Migraine is a disability

ellipse bg 3

Migraine is a disability

When thinking about people with disability, we often imagine someone in a wheelchair or with impaired sight or hearing.

Migraine attacks also cause impairment, through pain, cognitive difficulties and other symptoms, and are a significant cause of disability.

During a migraine attack, most people report impairment with around half having severe disability (unable to do daily tasks or needing bed rest).

There’s a measure of disability called Years Lived with Disability (YLD), which measures the burden of living with a non-fatal disease at a population level, allowing different diseases with different impacts to be compared with each other.

From the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study, migraine was the second highest cause of YLD worldwide (behind low back pain, which is a symptom rather than a specific disease) but first for women 15-49 years.

Disability impacts on life

We can also measure disability from migraine at an individual level. One commonly used method is the Migraine Disability Assessment Scale (MIDAS).

This uses a set of questions tested and used in migraine drug trials, that measure the impact of migraine on daily life, such as missing work, school or social or family activities, because of migraine or being unable to do household work. You can take the test here.

From our Migraine in Aotearoa New Zealand Survey 2022, half of respondents hadn’t been able to do household work for more than five days in the last three months, nearly a third had missed family, social or leisure activities on more than five days and over a quarter had missed school or work on more than five days.

Despite the disability impact of migraine, few people in NZ receive a benefit because of migraine. People with migraine who are employed can ask for accommodations to help them manage at work.

Employers might need information to help them understand that migraine is a disabling neurological condition (such as this website and resources we refer to). Employment New Zealand also has information for employers on reasonable accommodations and supporting employees with some form of disability.

Learn more