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"No link" between epilepsy and criminality - study

26 June, 2002

A theory, held by many psychiatrists and neurologists, that epilepsy is linked to criminality and violence has been disproved by researchers writing in the BMJ.

Their report finds that epilepsy is no more common in prisoners than in the general population.

The study, led by Dr Seena Fazel of Oxford University, reviewed seven surveys based on clinical interviews of 3,111 prisoners. All respondents were sentenced inmates, with an average age of 29. Ninety per cent were men, and 22 per cent had been convicted of violent offences. Only about 1 per cent of the prisoners reported a history of chronic epilepsy. The prevalence rate in general populations is also approximately 1 per centc for men aged 25-35 years.

"These findings reinforce our conclusion that the available evidence provides no good support for the alleged link between epilepsy and criminality," conclude the authors.