Open Access Open Badges Research article

Period prevalence of self-reported headache in the general population in Germany from 1995–2005 and 2009: results from annual nationwide population-based cross-sectional surveys

Andreas Straube1*, Bernhard Aicher2, Steffanie Förderreuther1, Thomas Eggert1, Janin Köppel2, Stefan Möller4, Roland Schneider2 and Gunther Haag3

Author Affiliations

1 Deptment Neurology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Klinikum Großhadern, Munich, Germany

2 Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG, Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany

3 Ipsos Operations GmbH, Mölln, Germany

4 Michael-Balint-Klinik, Königsfeld im Schwarzwald, Germany

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The Journal of Headache and Pain 2013, 14:11  doi:10.1186/1129-2377-14-11

Published: 14 February 2013



Although primary headache is the most frequent neurological disorder and there is some evidence that the prevalence rates have increased in recent years, no long-term data on the annual prevalence of headache are available for Germany. The objective of the study was therefore to obtain long-term data on the period prevalence of headache in the general population in Germany by means of population-based cross-sectional annual surveys (1995–2005 and 2009).


These surveys were conducted as face-to-face paper-and-pencil interviews from 1995 through 2004, and from 2005 onwards as computer-aided personal interviews. The reported headaches were self-diagnosed by the interviewees. Per year, approximately 640 trained interviewers interviewed between 10,898 and 12,538 German-speaking individuals aged 14 and older and living in private households in the whole of Germany (response rate: 67.4% and 73.1%, gross samples: 16,026 to 18,176 subjects). A total of more than 146,000 face-to-face interviews were analyzed.


The one-year headache prevalence remained stable over the entry period, with 58.9% (95%CI 57.7–60.1) to 62.5% (95%CI 61.3–63.7) (p=0.07). Women showed consistently higher prevalence rates than men (females: 67.3 (95%CI 65.7–68.9) to 70.7% (95%CI 69.1–72.3), males: 48.4% (95%CI 46.5–50.3) to 54.3% (95%CI 52.4–56.2)), and both sexes showed a bell-shaped age dependence with peaks in the 30–39 age group. A stable slightly higher prevalence was observed in urban versus rural areas (p<0.0001), and there was also a significant trend towards higher prevalence rates in groups with a monthly household income larger than 3,500 € (p=0.03).


The overall headache prevalence remained stable in Germany in the last 15 years.

Headache; Prevalence; General population; Age; Gender; Epidemiology; Income; Education