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People With Epilepsy Report Higher Discrimination Rates than General Population

October 18, 2016

People with epilepsy were more likely to have reported experiencing discrimination due to health problems than the general population, according to researchers from a recent study.

Senior author Dheeraj Rai, MBBS, MRC PSYCH, PhD, (Avon & Wiltshire Partnership NHS Mental Health Trust, UK) and colleagues sought to assess whether any excess relative burden of discrimination, domestic violence, abuse, and other stressful events could explain the higher rates of depression in those with epilepsy.

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 used comprehensive interviews with 7,403 individuals living in private residences in England. Doctor-diagnosed epilepsy and other chronic conditions were established by self-report. Discrimination, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and other stressful life events were assessed using computerized self-completion and a face-to-face interview, respectively.

Researchers found that discrimination was reported seven times more often than the general population, and this risk was greater than other chronic health problems such as diabetes, asthma, and migraines.
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People with epilepsy also had greater odds of experiencing domestic violence and sexual abuse than the general population, although these associations were also found in people with other chronic conditions. There was less evidence of an association between epilepsy and a history of physical abuse or having a greater burden of other stressful life events.

In exploratory analyses, assuming they lie on the causal pathway, discrimination, domestic violence, and sexual abuse explained 42.7% of the total effect of the relationship between epilepsy and depression or anxiety disorders.

Dr Rai said in a statement, “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.

“We now need longitudinal studies to confirm these findings, because if true, it may be possible to design interventions to help prevent mental health problems in some people with epilepsy.”—Amanda Del Signore



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