This study, which is a part of the initiative 'Lifting The Burden: The Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache Worldwide', assesses and presents all existing evidence of the world prevalence and burden of headache disorders. Population-based studies applying International Headache Society criteria for migraine and tension-type headache, and also studies on headache in general and 'chronic daily headache', have been included. Globally, the percentages of the adult population with an active headache disorder are 46% for headache in general, 11% for migraine, 42% for tension-type headache and 3% for chronic daily headache. Our calculations indicate that the disability attributable to tension-type headache is larger worldwide than that due to migraine. On the World Health Organization's ranking of causes of disability, this would bring headache disorders into the 10 most disabling conditions for the two genders, and into the five most disabling for women.