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Published: 2020-02-12 15:06 | Updated: 2020-02-13 14:01

People with cluster headache have twice as many sick-leave days as those without

In a new Swedish study, published in the medical journal Neurology, it was found that people with cluster headache have twice as many sick-leave days as people without. The researchers also found that women with cluster headache had twice as many sick-leave days as men with the same disease. That an episodic disease has some effect on working life was expected, but not that the differences were that large.

Porträtt Christina Sjöstrand
Christina Sjöstrand

Cluster headaches are short-termed but extremely painful headache attacks, usually located around and/or behind an eye, and can last anywhere from 15 minutes up to 3 hours and recurs for several days, or even weeks, in a row. Also, some have a chronic form of the disease. Cluster headache is more common in men and affects about one in 1,000 people.

The KI research group analyzed microdata from Swedish nationwide registers and included all 3,240 people of working age who in 2001 through 2010 had had healthcare at least one for cluster headache at a hospital or at out-patient specialized care. They also used a reference group of 16,200 individuals from the general population who did not have cluster headache and who were matched for age, gender, educational level, and type of living area. The net number of sickness absence and disability pension days in 2010 was compared with each participant.

The results showed that people with cluster headache had more than twice as many sickness absence/disability pension days compared to those who did not have the disease. Moreover, women with cluster headache had twice as many such absence days than men. Further, people with lower education had more sickness absence/disability pension days compared to people with a higher education.

"This study shows that cluster headaches dramatically interfere with people’s work capacity" says Christina Sjöstrand. "More research is needed on how to best treat and manage this form of headache so individuals who experience them have fewer days in pain and miss fewer work days. Obviously, the large gender differences shown need more investigations."

The study is a collaborative project between Christina Sjöstrand and Anna Steinberg at the Division of Neurology and Kristina Alexanderson and Pontus Josefsson at the Division of Insurance Medicine, both division at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience.