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The Migraine Gap: Women’s Health Disparities in the Workplace

Executives are often surprised to learn that migraine disease disproportionately and dramatically impacts women. While there’s a knowledge gap in the workplace, the facts speak for themselves: one in five women experience migraine, nearly 85% of migraine sufferers are women, and it’s one of the most common diseases experienced by women of working age.

That’s why we applaud our colleagues at the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) for launching a new Migraine Patient Toolkit, a resource with easy-to-understand information about migraine diagnosis and treatment options, as well as tips for interacting with health care providers and health insurance companies to help patients achieve the best possible outcomes.

SWHR is a national nonprofit dedicated to promoting research on biological differences in disease and improving women’s health through science, policy and education.

Core to their work is exploring the differences in how women and men experience certain diseases and conditions, including migraine, Alzheimer’s and sleeping disorders.

For example, SWHR finds that women are more likely to have:

  • Longer migraine attacks
  • Harder to treat attacks
  • More migraine-related symptoms
  • Higher levels of disability

 

These factors make balancing work, family and social obligations more challenging and put additional burdens on women in the workplace. Unfortunately, migraine disease also peaks in women of working age—a crucial period for career earnings and family growth. That’s one of the reasons active migraine management (and access to resources like SWHR’s new toolkit) is so important.

The SWHR also points out that because of the high prevalence of migraine among women, it is often perceived in our society as a feminine, and therefore less legitimate, disease. As millions of people with migraine know, the stigma associated with the disease is astonishing. According to one recent study from Thomas Jefferson University, chronic migraine sufferers face as much social stigma as people with epilepsy. It’s a staggering finding, given that symptoms associated with epilepsy are far more visible.

As part of our ongoing work to help employees better treat and monitor their health, and to help employers recognize the impact of migraine in the workplace, we’re proud to highlight SWHR’s new Migraine Patient Toolkit and support their important work in this space.