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Wien Klin Wochenschr. 2004 Mar 31;116(5-6):176-81.

Background morbidity of headache in an adult general population. Results of the Austrian SERMO (Self-Reported Morbidity) study.

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Institute of Social Medicine, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.



To assess period and point prevalence of headache in Austria and the influence of sociodemographic factors and seasonal variations.


Data for the prevalence of headache were drawn from the database of seven representative surveys in the SERMO study (Self-Reported Morbidity Study). The aims of the SERMO study are to describe and monitor the characteristics of background morbidity in the Austrian population. The study is based on face-to-face interviews. Headache/migraine was one of 36 disorders the interviewed persons were asked about.


The representative samples of the Austrian general population were selected by the "quota-procedure". Thus each cross sectional sample is representative for the entire Austrian population.


The study population consisted of 7,162 Austrian people over 15 years of age.


About one fifth (20.1%) of the Austrian adult population reported having headaches during the year (prevalence 26.4% in women vs. 13.0% in men, p<0.001). Period prevalences varied from 19.6% in August to 23.1% in October 1995. Mean point prevalence in the general population was 5.7% (3.6% in men vs. 7.7% in women, p<0.001). The highest point prevalence (8.0%) was observed among people over 60. Whereas period prevalence showed no trend with age or education, we found increasing point prevalence with age and lower levels of education. In general, significantly more people with self-reported headache suffered from stress (39.1% vs. 33.7%, p<0.001) and chronic diseases (33.6% vs. 23.2%, p<0.001) and took drugs regularly (all kinds of medication: 44.3% vs. 26.8%, p<0.001).


Headache is one of the most commonly experienced symptoms in Austria. The most common concomitant disease in the study population as a whole was hypertension. People with headache had a higher prevalence of hypertension, rheumatic diseases, venous diseases, diabetes and a higher consumption of drugs. Therefore, headache, as one aspect of multimorbidity or a symptom of other diseases, could be an indicator of impaired well-being and poor health.

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