A new Scandinavian study of young people shows that epilepsy is the number two cause of loneliness in this group.
Dr Kristin Alfstad surveyed over 10,000 young people in Norway to find out how they see their social relationships with family, classmates and so on. The survey used statements like 'I have a feeling nobody knows me well'. Respondents were then invited to say how correct they felt the statement was.
During the recent annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, Dr Alfstad said: "I often ask, 'How do you like school?' If they don't function well in school, that's often a sign of trouble."
The survey results highlight the social impact that living with the condition can have on young people. Of the young people who responded, 114 replied as having or having had epilepsy. Independent risk factors such as gender, low family income and living with a single parent were also considered.
Dr Alfstad explained: "The wish 'to be like the others' and to participate in different activities as an equal may be issues of particular importance for children with epilepsy. As children grow older and demands on them, both at school and socially, increase, they might experience more problems.”
The findings showed that almost twice as many young people with epilepsy felt lonely compared with other young people. Of the respondents who had epilepsy, 10.7 per cent (one in 10) declared they felt lonely. By comparison, only 5.5 per cent of young people without epilepsy (one in 20) said the same.
Analysis of the results showed that the strongest influence on feeling lonely was low family income, followed by living with epilepsy.
Epilepsy and psychiatry
Alfstad has researched epilepsy in young people in the past. A previous study found a higher rate of psychiatric problems in children with epilepsy.
A previous study found that 38 per cent of children with epilepsy showed symptoms of psychiatric problems. The figure was only 17 per cent in children without the condition.
The report stated: "Children with epilepsy had a significantly higher frequency of psychiatric symptoms...girls had more emotional problems, whereas boys had higher scores regarding peer relationship and hyperactivity/inattention problems."