The Social and Economic Impact of Episodic Migraine on Women

The Social and Economic Impact of Episodic Migraine on Women

Migraine is a neurological disorder characterised by moderate to severe headache and may have associated nausea (1). It can be debilitating when it isn’t managed properly, which has been highlighted in the Australian Women & Migraine survey which was commissioned by Organon and conducted in Australia in December 2022, assessing the impact of episodic migraine on women.

Migraine is common, affecting approximately 4.9 million Australians. However, the majority of these people are women aged 30-39 (1). Episodic migraine (0-14 migraine days per month) is also more common than chronic migraine (15 or more migraine days per month) (1,5). The Australian Women and Migraine survey aims to provide insight into how the majority of female respondents living with migraine are impacted by their attacks. 

There are medications available which could help reduce this impact. One such medication is MAXALT MIGRAINE RELIEF, which has recently become available directly through a pharmacist without a prescription for people diagnosed with migraine. A pharmacist’s advice is required.

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This article is sponsored by Organon.

Executive summary

Migraine continues to impose a significant impact on women in Australia due to the time it takes to control migraine symptoms, according to the Australian Women & Migraine Survey, commissioned in December 2022 by women’s healthcare company, Organon

The national Australian Women and Migraine survey, conducted with 1048 women aged between 21-50 years, revealed that migraine attacks are still taking too long to be controlled, with a quarter of respondents reporting that it can take up to four hours to manage their symptoms, and a further quarter reporting that it can take double that time to manage symptoms (2). Other research also shows that many individuals with migraine experience the worst of their symptoms within the first hour of a migraine attack (3).

The survey also revealed that of the 80% of women living with migraine who feel unsatisfied with how they manage their symptoms (2):

  • Nearly three quarters (70%) of these women say they can’t stop a migraine attack from occurring, and about two thirds (68%) can’t reduce their symptoms fast enough.

Of the 62% of women that experience migraine at work, the lighting in the office (63%) and loud music and conversations (52%) were identified as common triggers.

These results show that timely access to adequate treatment is essential to help take control of this common and deeply debilitating condition. Many people living with episodic migraine can adequately manage their condition by understanding their triggers and having easier access to triptans when needed (4). The decision to make certain medications, such as MAXALT MIGRAINE RELIEF available directly from the pharmacist, will hopefully help Australians better manage their migraine attacks.

Migraine in Australia

Migraine is estimated to affect 4.9 million people in Australia (1). However, it does not affect people of all genders and ages equally (1).

For people who are diagnosed with migraine, the symptoms, severity, attack frequency, and triggers may vary from person to person (4). There are many different types of migraine to describe these variations, including classification based on frequency – described as chronic or episodic migraine.

Episodic vs chronic migraine

The majority of people with migraine have episodic migraine (1). Episodic migraine refers to people who have 0-14 headache days per month (5). Whereas chronic migraine refers to those who have 15 or more headache days per month (5).

The determining factor is the frequency of ‘headache days’ per month (5).

How migraine affects women: survey results

The Australian Women and Migraine Survey, conducted in December 2022 and commissioned by women’s healthcare company, Organon, investigated the social, economic and physical impacts of episodic migraine. They surveyed 1048 women aged 21-50 years. 

The survey results showed that:

At work

  • 3 in 5 women (62%) experience migraine at work. Of these:
    • Over half (60%) admit to losing concentration.
    • Just under half (48%) feel comfortable speaking to their manager about their migraine.
    • 2 in 5 (41%) say living with migraine has negatively impacted their career prospects including promotions and bonuses.

At play

  • More than two thirds (69%) of women feel they miss out on being able to enjoy time with family and friends.

When caregiving

  • Most mothers (71%) say they feel guilty about missing time with family and friends when they have a migraine. 
  • Two thirds (66%) have had to make alternative arrangements for their families such as school pick-up, sports and meals.

These results show that many Australian women are struggling to manage their episodic migraine. One woman, Bianca Chatfield, spoke about how migraine has affected her career. Bianca is a professional netball and sports commentator living with migraine.

“Lights are a major trigger for my migraine and playing netball professionally meant bright lights were almost impossible to avoid. Game day was the worst time for me to experience an attack, it wasn’t possible to just push through the intense pain, I needed effective solutions quickly to ensure I didn’t miss out on court time”, says Bianca Chatfield, professional Netballer a World Championship and two Commonwealth Games medals, Sports Commentator winning living with migraine.

“A migraine attack can alter my whole day, my vision is impacted and I suffer from loss of concentration. For a long time, my car became my ‘safe haven’ where I’d recoup if I experienced an attack out of the home and wait until the symptoms subside. However, this isn’t feasible with a busy work schedule and a young child – we need better treatment options!”

Image of Bianca Chatfield in a kayak.
Bianca Chatfield was engaged by Organon and she received payment for her time and opinions.
Image of Bianca Chatfield on a hike.

Treatment satisfaction: survey results

The Australian Women & Migraine Survey also asked female respondents about their current migraine management, and how satisfied they were with treatments. They found that:

  • 80% are still not satisfied with how they manage symptoms, of these women (2):
    • 70% say they can’t stop a migraine attack from occurring (2).
    • 68% can’t reduce their symptoms fast enough (2).
    • 77% of women surveyed blame the lack of better solutions as a barrier to managing their migraine (2).
  • Taking treatment at the first sign of a migraine is essential to control symptoms (6). Yet, only 15% of women say they carry their script with them for quick access to treatment (2).

Over the past few years, there has been better access to the variety of treatments available for migraine. However, there are still clearly issues with access and availability.

Why timing your treatment matters

In some cases, the timing of your treatment can play a role in the efficacy of the medication (6). When it comes to triptans, research shows that taking your treatment at the start of an attack versus once the attack is already entrenched will result in better treatment outcomes (6).

The general recommendation is to take a triptan when you start to experience head pain, or your most bothersome symptom (6). If you take it once the attack has progressed, it may not work as well, but it is often more likely to work if you take it earlier (6).


Now available without prescription. Ask your pharmacist about this product.

Since the 1st of November 2023, MAXALT Migraine Relief has been available from pharmacists without a prescription. 

Image of MAXALT Migraine Relief box.

Be prepared with fast, effective MAXALT MIGRAINE RELIEF.
Now available without prescription.

The availability of triptans without prescription is a step towards the accessibility of migraine treatments for people living with migraine. Migraine attacks can be unpredictable – so for the 85% of women who don’t carry their script with them, this will significantly improve their ability to treat and manage migraine attacks (2).

Treatment implications 

MAXALT MIGRAINE RELIEF may change the way people manage their migraine attacks in a number of ways. In the past, some people struggled to manage their migraine when they ran out of their prescription, or if they were not carrying their script when a migraine attack occurred.

Now with MAXALT MIGRAINE RELIEF being available directly from the pharmacist, for people diagnosed with migraine, getting a triptan for your migraine attack may be as simple as going to your nearest pharmacy. 

The benefits of triptans being available directly from the pharmacist include:

  • Increased access for people who have run out of a prescription or left it at home.
  • Reduced disability when you are able to quickly treat a migraine attack.
  • More confidence at work and in social situations because you know you can access treatment.
  • Less stress and anxiety about your treatments.

To learn more about migraine and migraine treatment options, visit the website.



  1. Deloitte Access Economics, 2018, Migraine in Australia Whitepaper. Retrieved from: 
  2. Organon and Fiftyfive5, 2022, Women & Migraines. Data on File.
  3. L Kelman, 2006, Pain characteristics of the acute migraine attack. DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2006.00443.x
  4. A Eigenbrodt et al, 2021, Diagnosis and management of migraine in ten steps. DOI: 10.1038/s41582-021-00509-5
  5. D C Buse et al, 2020, Demographics, Headache Features, and Comorbidity Profiles in Relation to Headache Frequency in People With Migraine: Results of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. DOI: 10.1111/head.13966
  6. J Pascual, 2002, Clinical benefits of early triptan therapy for migraine. DOI: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.2002.0420s1010.x

Headache AustralianMigraine & Headache Australia is the only organization in Australia that aims to support the more than 5 million Australians affected by headache and migraine.