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Keywords:

  • epilepsy;
  • familiarity;
  • perspectives;
  • knowledge;
  • attitudes;
  • Seoul

Background and purpose – The aim of this study was to investigate the perceptions of epilepsy in Seoul, South Korea, a country where social stigma toward epilepsy is still pronounced.

Methods – We randomly selected 1000 persons living in Seoul and performed telephone interviews regarding public awareness, knowledge, and attitudes toward epilepsy.

Results – Among 1000 respondents, the 92% who had read or heard about epilepsy became the subjects of the study. Word of mouth was most often referenced as a source of knowledge (78%). Forty-seven percentage believed that epilepsy is inheritable, whereas 5% thought that epilepsy is a mental illness. Marriage of their children to an epileptic person, childbearing by women with epilepsy, and employing a person with epilepsy were opposed by more than 50% of respondents. The reasons for the negative attitudes were that epilepsy was hereditary and untreatable (P < 0.05, respectively).

Conclusions – Our study revealed that there still remains negative attitudes regarding the marriage, childbearing, and employment of persons with epilepsy, which may stem from misconceptions about the cause and treatability of epilepsy, possibly due in part to the influence of herbal medicine, and South Korea's ethnic homogeneity. Public health education either through media or school health education is urgently needed to improve knowledge about, and attitudes toward epilepsy.