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Keywords:

  • Epilepsy;
  • Public awareness;
  • Attitude;
  • Understanding;
  • Hong Kong

Summary:  Purpose: Because of the nature of the epileptic seizure, the social stigma attached to epilepsy is a major handicap to persons with epilepsy compared with the disability associated with seizures or the side effects from medications. Measuring the awareness, attitude, and understanding of epilepsy is the first step in alleviating discrimination.

Methods: We conducted a face-to-face questionnaire interview survey in five different locations (HKSAR) that represented the population structure, administrative function, and occupations of inhabitants. Subjects with epilepsy or with relatives who had epilepsy were excluded.

Results: We interviewed 1,128 subjects; 58.2% had heard about epilepsy before. Of these, 55% had witnessed one or more epileptic seizure, and 18.9% knew one or more persons with epilepsy; 52.7% would put an object into a patient's mouth during an epileptic seizure to prevent injury of the tongue (32.2% learned this from a local television program), and 94.1% agreed that persons with epilepsy could be married. However, only 72.5% considered pregnancy to be appropriate; 11.2% would not let their children play with others with epilepsy; 32.2% would not allow their children to marry persons with epilepsy. Employers (22.5%) would terminate the employment contract after an epileptic seizure in an employee with unreported epilepsy.

Conclusions: This study documented the public attitude toward epilepsy in HKSAR; although it was more negative than that in Western societies, it was more positive than that of the Chinese in China or Taiwan. We suggest that more effort be made to improve public awareness of, attitude toward, and understanding of epilepsy through school education and epilepsy-related organizations in HKSAR.