Social Functioning, Psychological Functioning, and Quality of Life in Epilepsy


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Th.P.B.M. Suurmeijer at Department of Sociology/ICS, University of Groningen, Grote Rozenstraat 31, 9712 TG Groningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: or


Summary:  Purpose: Part of our research intended to explain “Quality of Life” (QoL) differences between people with epilepsy. To this end, a series of already existing generic and disease-specific health status measures were used. In this study, they were considered as determinants of people's QoL, whereas QoL itself was conceived as a general “value judgment” about one's life.

Methods: From the records of four outpatient clinics, 210 persons with epilepsy were randomly selected. During their visit to the outpatient clinic, they completed a questionnaire assessing, among other things, health perceptions and social and psychological functioning. Additional information about their medical and psychosocial status was gathered from the patient files. Data were analysed by using a hierarchical regression analysis.

Results: In decreasing order of importance, “psychological distress,”“loneliness,”“adjustment and coping,” and “stigma perception” appeared to contribute most significantly to the outcome QoL as judged by the patients themselves, regardless of their physical status. In the final model, none of the clinical variables (onset, seizure frequency, side effects of antiepileptic drugs) contributed significantly anymore to the patients' “quality-of-life judgement.” Apparently the effect of other variables such as seizure frequency and health perceptions, medication and side effects, life fulfilment, self-esteem, and mastery is mediated by these variables.

Conclusions: Because all of the variance in QoL of the patients was explained by the psychosocial variables included in this study, health professionals should be aware of the significance of the psychosocial functioning of the patients and the role it plays in the achievement of a good QoL. Both informal and professional support may be an adjunct to conventional treatment. In future research, this issue should be given high priority.