According to the current study "Global, regional, and national burden of disorders affecting the nervous system, 1990-2021: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021", published on March 14, 2024 in Lancet Neurology, migraine is common in Western Europe the most debilitating neurological disease. Following migraine in first place are stroke (2nd place), dementia (3rd place), diabetic neuropathy (4th place), autism spectrum disorders (5th place), cancers of the nervous system (6th place), epilepsy (7th place), premature birth effects (5th place). 8), neonatal brain injuries (9th place) and spinal cord injuries (10th place).

The study analyzed the health loss of the nervous system caused by 37 diseases and the associated risk factors worldwide, regionally and nationally from 1990 to 2021. Mortality, prevalence of years lived with disability (YLDs), years of life lost (YLLs) and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) were recorded by age and sex in 204 countries and territories for the period from 1990 to 2021. Morbidity and Deaths due to neurological diseases in which the loss of health is directly attributable to damage to the CNS or peripheral nervous system are included.

Risk of neurological diseases depending on gender

A core method of studies on the “Global Burden of Disease” is the Daly concept. Daly stands for “disability-adjusted life years”. The years that a person is disabled or restricted by an illness, as well as illness-related deaths, are compared with a fictitious healthy life up to the age of life expectancy. As the current work describes, the number of Dalys has increased from 375 million in 1990 to 443 million in 2021 due to 37 neurological diseases taken into account. Nervous system disorders contribute to higher DALYs in men but higher prevalence in women (mainly migraines and tension-type headaches).

“In Western Europe, migraine tops the list of the most severely disabling neurological diseases. This is particularly true for women and often affects decades of the entire lifespan. Headaches are among the most common diseases of the nervous system. Headache disorders, characterized by recurrent headaches, can be associated with severe personal and societal burdens such as pain, disability, impaired quality of life and financial costs. However, worldwide, only a minority of people with headache disorders receive an appropriate diagnosis from a doctor. Headaches are underestimated, underdiagnosed and undertreated worldwide,” comments Prof. Dr. Hartmut Göbel, director of the Kiel Pain Clinic, the results.

“Neurological diseases cause great suffering for the people and families affected and deprive communities and economies of their human capital,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explains the results in a statement. “This study should be an urgent call to action to scale up targeted interventions so that the growing number of people with neurological diseases can access the high-quality care, treatment and rehabilitation they need.”