People With Epilepsy Still More Likely to Experience Discrimination

Posted Sep 20 2016 in Conditions related to epilepsy

A new study, published in the scientific journal Epilepsia, shows that people with epilepsy still feel discriminated against a lot more than the ‘general population’.

According to the authors, this could lead to psychological and social problems and may even lead to the development of psychiatric problems.

First Author on the study, Dr Victoria Nimmo-Smith, from the University of Bristol, said: “This paper demonstrates that despite all of the advances made over the last 100 years, the experience of discrimination continues to be a significant problem for people with epilepsy.”

Senior Author, Dr Dheeraj Rai, added: “We still don’t know enough about why people with epilepsy develop depression and anxiety disorders much more often than the general population. Our findings suggest that adverse life events such as discrimination may be important (…) if true, it may be possible to design interventions to help prevent mental health problems in some people with epilepsy.”

For the study, the researchers recruited people in England who were aged over 16 and living in private households. During the first part of the assessment, subjects were asked to declare whether or not they had received a diagnosis of epilepsy, asthma, diabetes or migraine from a doctor. The scientists then used the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 to collect and quantify information about each person’s experiences of discrimination, domestic violence, abuse and other stressful life events. They collated all of the complete data sets and analysed them (taking care to avoid biases and incorrect conclusions).

The results showed that people with epilepsy were seven times more likely to report experiencing discrimination due to health problems compared to people without epilepsy. This figure was considerably higher than for people with diabetes, asthma and migraines; when compared with people without each of these conditions respectively.

According to the data, people with epilepsy were more likely to have suffered domestic violence and sexual abuse than the ‘general population’; however, these associations were similar in the people with other chronic conditions (diabetes, asthma and migraines).

It is recognised that people with epilepsy are more likely to have common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders than persons in the ‘general population’. This may be linked to common neurobiological factors, but psychological and social factors may also contribute.

Author: Dr Özge Özkaya

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