A lack of understanding is a significant driver of stigma faced by employees who experience migraines, said Rob Grein, a partner at strategic marketing agency PMG Intelligence, during Benefits Canada‘s 2018 Healthy Outcomes conference in May.

As part of recent research, Grein has been working to find out what migraine represents in the workplace today. He found it affects people most frequently when they’re in their prime working years between 35 and 64 years of age.

“One of the key takeaways in this research exercise, both qualitatively and quantitatively, was the association of migraine to severe pain, a pain that essentially eliminates or prevents the ability for employees to present at their place of employment,” said Grein.

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For employees dealing with the condition, 97 per cent are actively trying to end their migraine, PMG’s research found. While multiple over-the-counter medications are available, there was no one treatment or option used by more than 50 per cent of people.

“That’s important because it indicates there’s an effort to try and manage, but at the end of the day, there’s a strong reliance on medication to support,” said Grein.

The stigma employers believe exists about migraine sufferers has several manifestations, such as perceptions that they’re unreliable, liars or less productive. “There’s an association to that stigma being caused by a fundamental lack of understanding,” said Grein.

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That’s why employer engagement is crucial, he added, noting the condition is also a significant cost issue since the average sufferer experiences 36 days a year of migraine.

Employers acknowledge that while they have a role in helping employees to mitigate the condition, there’s a knowledge gap on how to do so, said Grein. “Typically speaking, in working with employers, there is a recognition that it is one of the most extensive or impactful conditions that can happen to a person, second or third to depression.”

And while half of research participants said their drug plans already cover migraine drugs, Grein noted many smaller- and medium-size employers don’t fully understand what their benefits coverage includes. “Driving awareness really becomes a foundational focal point.”

Read more coverage from the 2018 Healthy Outcomes conference.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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