The prevalence and impact of primary headaches on students at the Durban based campuses of the Durban University of Technology (DUT)
Background Headaches affect different proportions of many populations and are experienced by any age, gender or ethnicity group. There is a paucity of data on the prevalence of headaches in South Africa, particularly amongst the university student population. Previous studies have suggested that headaches impact on daily activities as well as family and/or social activities. Studies on the impact of headaches on students are limited. Aim of Study The aim of this research study was to determine the prevalence and impact of primary headaches amongst students at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Methodology A quantitative descriptive cross sectional survey was used to determine the prevalence of primary headaches in the student population at DUT. A minimum sample size of 384 was calculated using a confidence level of 95% and confidence interval of five percent. All six faculties were included. The course programmes and levels were chosen by multi-stage sampling. Each willing participant was required to sign a written consent form prior to enrolment in the study. Subsequently a self-administered questionnaire was filled out. The International Classification of Headache Disorder Criteria was used to classify primary headaches. All data was captured on an Excel spreadsheet and subsequently analysed using SPSS version 23.0. Results The total of 471 completed questionnaires was received. The prevalence of primary and secondary headaches was similar (50.2%; n = 222 versus 49.8%; n = 220, p = 0.92). More participants suffered from tension type (68.5%; n = 152) headaches compared to migraines (16.2%, n = 36) and mixed migraine and tension type headaches (15.3%, n = 34; p < 0.001). None of the study participants suffered from cluster headaches. Poor vision and stress increased the risk of a headache occurrence. The main relieving factor identified was the use of medication. Other relieving factors reported were sleep and relaxation. There was no correlation between suffering from headaches across the different faculties (p = 0.65), age of the participant (p = 0.77), ethnicity (p = 0.40), marital status (p = 0.84) and gender (p = 0.35). Headaches had a negative impact on the academic activities of the affected participants, including limited concentration and a complete halt to studies. Conclusion Tension type headaches were more prevalent amongst the study population. The impact of headaches limited concentration during tests and examination periods. An increased frequency and intensity of headaches was reported during this period. Family, social or leisure activities were also neglected when a headache occurred. This study adds to the current literature on headache prevalence in the student population. It also highlights that chiropractors are not consulted for headaches by students in the South African context. The chiropractic profession can benefit by tapping into this population.