Health And Family

Not just a ‘headache’: 1 in 3 migraine sufferers develop depression

Not just a âheadacheâ: 1 in 3 migraine sufferers develop depression
Contrary to popular belief, migraine is not just a simple headache but a chronic neurological condition. 
Geralt via Pixabay

MANILA, Philippines — Sharon Lin is a model employee in one of the leading banks in the Philippines where she works as the Operations Lead for Digital Payments. The past few months, however, have become challenging for her as her work and personal life have undergone a complete overhaul. 

With everyone moving to a work-from-home setup, coordination within teams and visibility on projects have become very challenging for her. More so, her role as the Operations Lead has become more critical for leadership teams; increasing her work pressures and deliverables by many folds. 

Sharon has been struggling with managing her home and the office and has not been able to shut down from work. Her health, sleep and eating habits have also shown a downward progression. 

To add to her woes, Sharon has been experiencing recurring headaches, which are hampering her concentration and work efficiency. She eventually consulted a doctor and was diagnosed with migraine. Her doctor prescribed medications and recommended lifestyle changes and home remedies to help prevent migraine attacks and ease symptoms.

Many experts are talking about the new world and order that post-COVID era is going to introduce. COVID-19 epidemic has emerged as a global unprecedented crisis and many professionals are still grappling with the situation and define it as “too much to handle.” 

Mental and physical wellbeing of employees is not a new concept and has been the focus area of many organizations. The reasons for this are significant. Organizations have realized that human capital is their biggest asset – if gone wrong, it can nullify the best strategies and business plans. They also realize that investments in human capital have way higher returns than expected as a happy and healthy workforce is also highly efficient and creative. 

The current evolution of business operations and work-from-home setups has led employees to struggle with balancing their health and work. Organizations have a huge role to play towards their employees in this time of crisis. The first step is to realize the problem and therefore undertake proactive measures. For instance, migraine can peak during these times of social distancing, unhealthy lifestyles and increased work pressures.

Migraine can be one of the most common neurological disorders that involves recurrent attacks of moderate to severe head pain that is typically throbbing, often on one side of the head and associated with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound and odors. It is among the top 10 most disabling disorders worldwide and is particularly burdensome among young and middle-aged women, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.

Migraine often occurs during peak productive years, between the ages of 35 and 45 and often results in temporary disability during attacks. Affected people can be incapacitated by the symptoms, which can last for days. Migraine is estimated to cost up to €27 billion in Europe and around $20 billion in the US annually, including indirect costs such as lost productivity.

The My Migraine Voice study revealed that migraine cuts work productivity by half and 60% of employed people with severe migraine miss, on average, a week of work per month. It also found that migraine could be managed with better preventive treatments and workplace solutions. 

A joint initiative of Novartis and the European Migraine and Headache Alliance (EMHA), My Migraine Voice is the largest ever global study of people living with migraine, involving more than 11,000 people from 31 countries.

The Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 estimates that around 12 million Filipinos suffer from migraine. Unfortunately, there is low awareness on the difference between migraine and headache. 

Many Filipinos with migraine self-medicate with over-the-counter pain medications instead of consulting a doctor. Contrary to popular belief, migraine is not just a simple headache but a chronic neurological condition. 

In addition, stress occupational health expert Dr. Gia Sison noted that one in three migraine sufferers develop depression. 

“Promoting awareness on migraine is key in enabling migraine sufferers to recognize the symptoms and consult a neurologist or headache specialist for optimal diagnosis and management,” said Sison.

“HR leaders and occupational health experts can play a key role in easing the burden of migraine and mental health especially in these testing times,” said Christine Fajardo, country public affairs and corporate responsibility head at Novartis Healthcare Philippines, Inc.

In the latter part of 2019, the healthcare joined forces with the global multi-stakeholder organization Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD), leading international provider of telemedicine Medgate, Singapore-based healthcare communications firm SPAG and the Swiss Embassy in the Philippines. Bound by a shared goal of creating healthier workplaces, the stakeholders formed the Progressive Alliance Towards Healthy Workplaces (PATHw). 

A Pan-Asia coalition of HR and business leaders, PATHw aims to develop a comprehensive and long-term action plan to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including migraine, in the workplace. It will seek the insights of all concerned stakeholders in addressing issues that affect workplace wellbeing and employees’ health.

According to Fajardo, PATHw will engage employers and HR leaders in Asia to promote awareness on NCDs and their impact on worker productivity, as well as to encourage employers to implement healthy workplace programs. Mental health will be one of the key focusses for us through this coalition.

“Our goal is to empower employees with knowledge about leading a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent NCDs and having regular health check-ups for early detection and treatment of illnesses. Through PATHw, we aim to create a platform for continuous dialogue with employers to address the impact of NCDs and feature best practices on workplace health and wellbeing.”

RELATED: Youth, especially young workers, most vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic — experts



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