Objective: The data collected by the Global Burden of Disease 2016 project indicate that migraine ranks second in high-income countries with very competitive and flexible labour markets, and first in low- and middle-income countries suffering from civic unrest and conflict. This raises the question whether external stress factors may be correlated with migraine years lived with disability per 100,000 inhabitants (YLD). The objective of this exploratory study is to test the hypothesis that external stress factors are correlated with the prevalence and severity of migraine at the country level. The analysis uses two country groups: developed and developing countries. For the first group, the proxy variables for stress are labour productivity and unemployment rate. For the second group, the proxy variables measure conflict-related deaths and share of migrant/refugee population. Results: The results show a positive relationship between the stress variables on the one hand and migraine YLD on the other hand for both country groups. Almost all results are statistically significant at p < 0.01. These exploratory findings suggest that societal stress factors may be potential candidates for modifiable factors for the prevalence and/or severity of migraine at the country level.
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