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Epilepsy linked to social deprivation

7 Nov 2002

People who are socially and economically disadvantaged are more likely to develop epilepsy than those who are not, conclude researchers in this week’s British Medical Journal.

They identified all new cases of epilepsy in 20 general practices in London and south east England over an 18 or 24 month period. All patients were categorised using a standard measure of deprivation, known as a Carstairs score.

After adjusting for age and sex, they found that the incidence of epilepsy in the most deprived fifth of the study population was 2.3 times that in the least deprived fifth.

This suggests that socioeconomic deprivation is an important risk factor for the development of epilepsy, although the results may partly reflect differences in the incidence of epilepsy within and outside London, say the authors.

It is not clear why low socioeconomic status might increase risk of epilepsy, but several other risk factors such as incidence of birth defects, trauma, infection, and poor nutrition are known to be more common among socioeconomically deprived populations, add the authors.

Although children of parents with epilepsy may be socially disadvantaged because of their parent’s condition, genes associated with epilepsy may also be important in determining educational achievement and other aspects of medical health, they conclude.