A new research study suggests that living with both epilepsy and mental health issues increases the risk of premature death. Epilepsy Action is exploring the research findings to assess whether this is the case
The study was conducted in Sweden, where researchers studied almost 70,000 people with epilepsy born between 1954 and 2009, whose lives were followed for up to 41 years. The team also studied very large ‘control’ groups, whose information was used to compare the results.
The summary suggest that, on average, people with epilepsy are 11 times more likely to die early compared with the general population. This risk is said to be even higher still in people with epilepsy who are living with one of two other specific conditions. These conditions are psychiatric conditions such as depression or substance abuse problems.
The Epilepsy Action Advice and Information team is very concerned about how these findings have been reported. It is possible that some of the study findings may not be quite as serious as they first appear. However, people with epilepsy are understandably very worried about their health and safety.
Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive of Epilepsy Action, said: “Previous studies have suggested that having epilepsy can put you at greater risk of mental illnesses such as depression. Research indicates that those who are still having seizures are more likely to develop depression than those with well-controlled epilepsy. We also know that some epilepsy medicines can impact on mental health, with depression being a side-effect of some medicines.
“The findings of this research are concerning and highlight the need for excellent healthcare for people with epilepsy. Getting the best possible support and treatment is important to help to reduce the likelihood of people with epilepsy experiencing mental illness. And a holistic approach to managing the condition should help ensure that people with epilepsy get the treatment they need to manage their epilepsy and any associated conditions.”
Epilepsy Action is currently looking in great depth at the research findings and will soon report back to members. If people with epilepsy are concerned about the findings of the study, they should speak to their doctors or contact the Epilepsy Helpline. Simply call 0808 800 5050 (UK only), or email your question.