More than 45 million Americans aged 18 years or older report having a migraine or severe headache in the last 3 months, according to the CDC.
Migraines cost the United States $36 billion annually; they are the 5th leading cause of ER visits and account for 22% of missed days of work.
In an observational study with 5,000 migraine sufferers, Twill showed positive impact on mental wellbeing, quality of life, migraine pain, and frequency. Continue reading or download our white paper to learn about which populations are particularly impacted by migraines, a detailed breakdown of healthcare costs, and what our research reveals about how digital therapeutics can help.
Who Gets Migraines?
Migraines affect 1 billion people, making it the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world.
Most people experience more episodic migraines, but more than 4 million Americans have chronic migraines, which means they have more than 15 per month .
The Cost of Migraines
Migraines typically impact people during their most productive working years, which makes the disability burden especially high .
Globally, migraines represent one of the leading causes of disability . In total migraines account for 9.5% of all years of healthy life lost to a disability among people ages 15 to 49 .
In particular, people who suffer from chronic migraines have 3.63 times more disability days than people with episodic migraines , and people with chronic migraine make up 40-45% of the people visiting headache clinics [11, 12].
Medical costs among migraine sufferers are, on average, 1.7x higher than in the general population ; inpatient costs alone may be as high as 1.2 billion per year nationwide .
The cost associated with chronic migraine is even higher; approximately 3x the cost associated with an episodic migraine, and episodic migraines that transform into chronic migraine are associated with 4.4x higher costs than those that remain episodic .
On average, migraines are associated with 4.4 missed workdays per year plus an average of 11.4 days per year with reduced productivity . That’s the equivalent of about 157 million total lost workdays in the U.S. per year due to migraines .
Migraine Patients Need New Options
Despite these high costs, funding for migraine research is comparatively low  and migraines remain an under-diagnosed and under-treated condition. What’s more, many migraine patients report being dissatisfied with their treatment options and often stop whatever treatment they started to try and address the problem.
Exploring new options for migraine patients and new delivery modalities is imperative.
Stress seems to be an important part of the migraine cycle; not only is it the most commonly reported trigger for migraines , but experiencing a migraine also heightens one’s level of stress . People who suffer from migraine sufferers are also more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression .
Most current treatment options for migraine sufferers are focused on addressing the physical components of a migraine. An alternative approach to treating migraines is to help people reduce their stress, depression, and anxiety. If it were possible to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety for a migraine sufferer, then the potential is there to reduce the primary triggers for migraines and improve a person’s overall quality of life at the same time.
However, so far, these biobehavioral treatments have been limited to face-to-face settings, which introduces several roadblocks to receiving care.
At Twill, our hypothesis was that our digital-first approach to offering biobehavioral treatments for migraine has the potential to provide a scalable and cost-effective way to help migraine sufferers, without them ever needing to leave their home or office.
Twill’s Digital-First Approach to Helping Migraine Patients
Beginning in 2020, Twill launched a pilot study to measure the effects of our digital therapeutics platform on people with self-reported migraines.
Initial results from the pilot study found that 70% of the users we engaged had anxiety and 88% had well-being scores below the 50th percentile for the general population. People with chronic migraines were even worse off; compared
to users with less than 4 migraines per month, anxiety was 15.15% higher and subjective well-being was 16.16% lower among users with 15 or more migraines per month.
The Good News
Following the pilot study, our data illustrated that users suffering from migraines showed significant improvements in both well-being and anxiety after using Twill, especially when they completed our recommended 16 activities.
Twill's data also showed that when users successfully reduced their anxiety or stress levels, they also reported fewer migraines over time. These preliminary findings provide some promising insights into how digital therapeutics may help improve mental health and migraine-related outcomes.
Identifying new ways to address the mental and physical toll of migraines is an important step in increasing access to care and reducing the cost burden on our healthcare system.
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About the Author
Eliane Boucher, PhD, Senior Director of Research Strategy has a PhD in Social/Personality Psychology and spent more than a decade in academic research before joining Twill. She helps to oversee Twill's program of research, including analyzing platform data, prospective studies on the impact of Twill products in various populations, patient-centered research, and other foundational research.