Most Canadians believe employers have role in helping staff manage migraines: study

Lost productivity due to migraine costs Canadian employers on average $245 million over a three-months period, only behind back problems and mood disorders, according to a new study byNovartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc.

The World Health Organization ranked migraine at No. 10 on its list of the most disabling diseases in the world. It’s a neurological disease affecting almost 10 per cent of Canadians, with women twice as likely to suffer as men, noted the study.

“Many people are unaware of how debilitating migraines can be,” said Lison Prevost, vice-president of health policy and patient access at Novartis. “Since the impact of migraine hits at the height of people’s career, we felt it was important to gain a better understanding of how migraine is perceived in the workplace.”

Read: How employers can better support workers suffering from migraines

The study, which surveyed 511 Canadian employers, 96 benefits advisors and 1,241 Canadian employees, found just 45 per cent of respondents recognized migraine as a neurological disease, highlighting that people need to be aware it’s more than simply a bad headache.

As well, 335 survey respondents are migraine sufferers, and noted it negatively affects their workplace productivity more than stress, anxiety, depression, cold and flu and back pain. The study found those who suffer from migraine are twice as likely to be absent from the workplace compared to those who suffer headaches. And employees who experience migraine more frequently per month were more likely than other employees to need unpaid sick leave, long-term disability and disability payments.

Read: Bridging the gap in migraine understanding, awareness

Most employees (91 per cent) and employers (86 per cent) surveyed said they believe employers have a role in helping employees manage their migraine symptoms. The top three employer supports identified were flexible working hours (51 per cent), access to health and wellness programs (48 per cent ) and increased access to prescriptions through benefits plans (44 per cent).