Socioeconomic Status and Epilepsy

British investigators have linked epilepsy to socioeconomic factors.

In the British Medical Journal, researchers report people suffering the greatest socioeconomic disadvantages are significantly more likely to develop the condition than those suffering the least.

Health officials have long associated epilepsy with socioeconomic factors, noting people with the disease experience poor academic achievement, unemployment, underemployment, and low incomes. Investigators have also observed the condition is more common in developing than already developed countries. However, few studies have examined at the link between socioeconomic factors and the development of epilepsy in a community population.

Researchers determined the number of new cases of epilepsy in 20 physician practices in London and southeast England over an 18- or 24-month period. All patients in the practices were categorized for socioeconomic status using standard measures.

Nearly 200 new cases of epilepsy were identified during the period. Researchers then divided all the patients in the practices into five groups according to their scores on the socioeconomic measurement scale. The incidence of epilepsy was 2.3 times higher in the bottom fifth than in the top fifth.

Investigators don’t know why people who are disadvantaged are at higher risk of developing epilepsy, but suspect the higher rate of birth defects, trauma, infection, and poor nutrition seen in disadvantaged populations may play a role in the development of the disease.

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