Page last updated at 09:20 GMT, Tuesday, 7 July 2009 10:20 UK

Migraine 'favoured sickie excuse'

Migraine attacks can be extremely debilitating

Claiming to have a migraine headache has become one of the most popular excuses for "pulling a sickie" from work, a survey suggests.

The YouGov poll of 2,105 people found 15% of workers who admitted to making up illness to get a day off used migraine as their excuse.

The research suggested the fact that people were faking migraines put real sufferers in a difficult position.

Some said they feared they would not be believed when phoning in sick.

The research shows migraine sufferers worry how their migraines are negatively affecting colleague's views of them
Lee Tomkins
Migraine Action Association

More than a quarter (28%) said they were worried their boss would not believe them, and 21% were concerned their colleagues would think they were using migraine as an excuse for a day off.

One third felt guilty for letting their colleagues down.

And 13% admitted they had used another illness as their reason for being unwell.

Lee Tomkins, director of Migraine Action Association, said: "The research shows migraine sufferers worry how their migraines are negatively affecting colleague's views of them.

"Since the economic downturn we've seen 104% increase in calls to our helpline and we estimate approximately 35% of these are work related issues.

"These concerns are being exacerbated because more people are currently faced with the very real possibility of redundancy."

Lack of understanding

The research also revealed work colleagues did not understand the debilitating effect of migraine.

Severe headache often associated with symptoms such as nausea and increased sensitivity to light
Most severe form is called migraine with aura, which can cause symptoms such as blind spots, flashing lights, stiffness, problems with coordination and difficulty speaking
Migraine affects about one in four women and one in 12 men in the UK
May be caused by changes in the chemicals of the brain, in particular the mood-regulator serotonin

Almost a third (29%) admitted they would be suspicious about a colleague using migraine as a reason for not coming into work.

Nearly a fifth (17%) felt frustrated they had to pick up additional work load when someone was off sick with a migraine.

And 11% thought the sufferer should make an effort to soldier on and come to work as normal.

Dr Dawn Harper, a GP, said: "Migraine is a debilitating condition and people who are fortunate enough not to suffer sometimes underestimate how unwell a sufferer can feel during an attack, often meaning they are unable to carry on as normal and have no choice but to put life, including work, on hold until they feel better."

Many people with migraine said said taking time off ill increased their stress levels.

And 14% believed that migraines had affected their career progression.

Absenteeism due to migraine is estimated to cost the UK economy £2.25 billion a year.

The poll was commissioned by Imigran, manufacturer of migraine medication.

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