Prevalence and clinical characteristics of headaches among undergraduate students in three tertiary institutions in Ilorin, Nigeria

  • E.O. Sanya
  • O.O. Desalu
  • S.A. Aderibigbe
  • P.M. Kolo
  • A.F. Mustapha
  • O.A. Adeyanju
Keywords: Headache, migraine, prevalence, tension‑type headache, undergraduates


Objective: Headache is a common chronic neurologic disorder with huge economic and psychosocial impact. In comparison with other neurological disorders, there is limited data on primary headache, especially from sub‑Saharan Africa. This study was done to fill in the gap and provide recent information on headache among Nigerian undergraduate students.

Methodology: Quota sampling was used to select students from three tertiary educational institutions within Ilorin, the capital of Kwara state. Two‑stage self‑administered questionnaires developed from the guideline of the International Society of Headache were used to harvest information.

Results: A total of 1500 students participated in the study. The mean age of the students was 20.9 ± 3.1 years, with male:female ratio of 1.6:1. A total of 356 students have frequent headache within previous 1 year, given the headache frequency of 23.7%. Fifty‑three students (3.5%) had headaches on almost daily basis, 84 (5.6%) had ≥4 attacks/week, 145 (9.7%) had ≤2–3 attacks/month, and 123 (8.2%) had 1–3 attacks every 3 months. Close to 75% indicated that it limits their daily activity frequently. One hundred and eighty‑seven (12.5%) students fulfilled the criteria for tension‑type headache, 36 (2.4%) for migraine headache, and 133 (8.9%) had nonclassified headaches. The most frequent headache‑associated symptoms are photophia – 100 students (6.7%), phonophobia – 159 students (10.6%), while 62 students (4.1%) had nausea and vomiting. None of the students had seen a physician for proper headache diagnosis. Majority (90.2%) used none prescription over-the-counter analgesia (acetaminophen) for symptomatic treatment of their aches.

Conclusion: Headache is a common complaint among Nigerian undergraduate students and it limits the daily activity of majority of the sufferers. Students need proper education regarding treatment to alleviate their suffering and forestall complication, especially those associated with analgesic overuse.

Keywords: Headache, migraine, prevalence, tension‑type headache, undergraduates


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2229-7731
print ISSN: 1119-3077