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INTRODUCTION: Headache is the most prevalent neurological manifestation in adults and one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. In children and adolescents, headaches are arguably responsible for a remarkable impact on physical and psychological issues, yet high-quality evidence is scarce. MATERIAL AND METHODS: We searched cross-sectional and cohort studies in Embase, Medline, Web of Science, and Cochrane databases from January 1988 to June 2022 to identify the prevalence of headaches in 8-18 years old individuals. The risk of bias was examined with the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) scale. A random-effects model was used to estimate the pooled prevalence of pediatric headache. Subgroup analyses based on headache subtypes were also conducted. RESULTS: Out of 5,486 papers retrieved electronically, we identified 48 studies that fulfilled our inclusion criteria. The pooled prevalence of primary headaches was 11% for migraine overall [95%CI: 9-14%], 8% for migraine without aura (MwoA) [95%CI: 5-12%], 3% for migraine with aura (MwA) [95%CI:2-4%] and 17% for tension-type headache (TTH) [95% CI: 12-23%]. The pooled prevalence of overall primary headache in children and adolescents was 62% [95% CI: 53-70%], with prevalence in females and males of 38% [95% CI: 16-66%] and 27% [95% CI: 11-53%] respectively. After the removal of studies ranked as low-quality according to the JBI scale, prevalence rates were not substantially different. Epidemiological data on less common primary headaches, such as trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, were lacking. CONCLUSION: We found an overall remarkably high prevalence of primary headaches in children and adolescents, even if flawed by a high degree of heterogeneity. Further up-to-date studies are warranted to complete the picture of pediatric headache-related burden to enhance specific public interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


J Headache Pain

Publication Date





Child and adolescent headache, Headache epidemiology, Meta-analysis, Migraine, Prevalence, Systematic review, Tension-type headache, Male, Adult, Female, Humans, Child, Adolescent, Cross-Sectional Studies, Headache, Tension-Type Headache, Migraine with Aura, Migraine without Aura, Prevalence