Social Aspects of Epilepsy in the Adult in Seven European Countries


  • The RESt-1 Group

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. E. Beghi at Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche “Mario Negri,” Via Eritrea 62, 20157 Milano, Italy.


Summary: Purpose: The social implications of epilepsy are ill-defined, and there are no comparative findings from different countries. A multicenter cohort study has recently been completed on the risk of morbidity and accidents. The main social issues in the study population (patients with epilepsy and control subjects) are investigated and correlated to the clinical features of the disease.

Methods: Seven hundred six adult patients with idiopathic or remote symptomatic epilepsy and 662 matched controls without epilepsy were enrolled by secondary and tertiary centers in seven European countries (Italy, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, England, Portugal, and Russia). At entry, patients and controls were interviewed, and data were collected on social variables (education, current occupation, marital status, driving, involvement in sports, and insurance). The main clinical features of epilepsy (seizure types, frequency and timing, disease duration, and syndrome) were also recorded.

Results: The sample included 690 men and 678 women aged 18 to 86 years. The level of education (mostly basic or high school) was slightly higher among patients with epilepsy. More patients than controls were single (56% versus 50%) or unemployed (18% versus 13%). Fewer patients than controls held a driver's license (44% versus 67%) or practiced sports (30% versus 41%). The distribution of each social variable varied significantly across countries, but with few exceptions, the differences between patients and controls were fairly similar. Based on multivariate analysis, for patients with epilepsy the odds ratio for driving was 0.27, and the corresponding odds ratios for sports involvement, better education, better occupation, and insurance were 0.59, 1.30, 0.60, and 1.49. Among patients with epilepsy, social variables were correlated to seizure remission and selected clinical features.

Conclusions: Comparative findings from different European countries support the concept that epilepsy has a considerable impact on driving and–to a lesser extent–on education, occupation, leisure activities, and insurance. The social implications of epilepsy in this sample are partly related to its severity and clinical features.