Climate Health Medical

Climate change impacting migraine frequency and intensity

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HQ Team

May 16, 2024: Migraine is a debilitating condition that affects people both mentally and physically. Recent statistics show that the frequency of migraines has increased in recent times and a major cause could be climate change.

According to Global Health Estimates 2019, headache disorders were found to be the third highest cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) worldwide, after stroke and dementia. Globally, headache disorders affect approximately 40% of the population, or 3.1 billion people.

Migraines and their disability burden is affecting people’s ability to work, through decreased productivity, social interactions and sheer functional impairment.

Migraine disability burden

A report published in Headache in May, did a meta analysis of  11 studies among U.S. adults from 1989 to 2018 on migraines. Researchers found the number of people suffering from migraines in this period has shown no significant change, but found Migraine Disability Assessment Scale scores, which measure how migraines affect a person’ daily activities, jumped from 22.0% to 42.4% since 2004.

“While the burden initially increased more significantly among women and has since stabilized, the rate of burden in men has continued to escalate,” lead author Dr. Fred Cohen, assistant professor of medicine and neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, said in an interview.

“Additionally, our research indicates that the average monthly frequency of headaches has risen over the past 20 years.”

Climate change trigger

There are several factors that trigger migraines and weather change is one of them. This has become a growing issue in the face of climate change.

Climate change can lead to more erratic and severe weather conditions, which are known triggers for migraines, Cohen said.

“As extreme weather events, like hurricanes, become more frequent and intense, they could be contributing to an increase in migraine attacks and their severity,” he said.

There are studies to show that high and low pressure systems that bring about atmospheric changes add to the pressure felt by migraine sufferers. There is research to suggest the heating climate is impacting the jet stream, changing how often the atmospheric pressure shifts.

Added to this are pollution, bright lights, and humidity, which affect the more sensitive. These weather changes disrupt the balance of chemicals in the brain, like serotonin, according to the Mayo Clinic.


Migraines are defined as a throbbing headache on one side of the head, which can cause increased light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting.

Genetic makeup and a variety of other factors play a part in the triggering of migraines in some people. Change in climatic conditions and the accompanying frequent atmospheric pressure systems affect sensitive migraine sufferers. But climate change in conjunction with other factors such as stress, sleeplessness, diet upsets, and such act as trigger.


It is estimated that 45 million years are lived with disability because of migraines globally.

Treatment for migraines varies according to the medical history and patient suitability. “As-needed” treatments can range from over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen, to prescription medicines and wearable devices.



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