The Clinical Course of Epilepsy and Its Psychosocial Correlates: Findings from a U.K. Community Study


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr A. Jacoby at Centre for Health Services Research, 21 Claremont Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4AA, England.


As part of a large community-based study, we retrospectively examined the clinical course of epilepsy in an unselected population of people who had a recent history of seizures or were receiving antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). Clinical information was collected from medical records, and information about psychosocial functioning was obtained by means of postal questionnaires sent to identified subjects. The response rate to the postal questionnaire was 71%. There were some deficiencies in the recording of clinical data, which is not unusual since data were taken from records held by primary physicians rather than from hospital clinics. Nevertheless, findings regarding the clinical course of epilepsy corresponded to those of earlier studies. Fifty-seven percent of the sample had had at least a 2-year seizure-free period and 46% of subjects were currently in a remission of at least 2-year duration. There was a clear relationship between current seizure frequency and levels of anxiety and depression, perceived impact of epilepsy, perceived stigma, and marital and employment status. The relationship of seizure frequency and other clinical variables to psychosocial function was explored by multivariate analysis techniques. The amount of variation in scores on the various measures of function accounted for by the clinical variables was small. The most important predictor was current seizure activity, which was the first variable to enter the regression analyses for six of the eight measures of psychosocial function considered. Age at epilepsy onset also emerged as a significant predictor for depression, stigma, and marital status. In individuals with epilepsy in remission, there was little evidence that psychosocial functioning was associated with length of remission, a finding which may in part reflect the nature of this study population. The results indicate that there are several more important predictors of psychopathology and social dysfunction in epilepsy and suggest several implications for treatment interventions.