Epilepsy and the risk of an early death

bps.org.ik Thursday 1st August 2013

Individuals with epilepsy are at greater risk of dying prematurely, new research has found. Published in The Lancet, the study – which is the largest-ever investigation into the condition and spanned 41 years – showed these people are 11 times more likely to die young than the general population.

Conducted by investigators at Oxford University and the Karolinska Institutet, the research also demonstrated that people with both epilepsy and alcohol or drug disorders are 22 times more likely to pass away than those who do not have any such problems.

As part of the study, a total of 69,995 people with epilepsy born in Sweden between 1954 and 2009 were tracked for 41 years.

It was shown that nine per cent of people with epilepsy die prematurely – compared to 0.7 per cent of those without the condition – while a person with epilepsy is four times more likely to commit suicide.

Dr Andrew Long, Vice President for Education at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “850,000 children and young people in the UK have a mental health problem, some minor, but if unrecognised or neglected, could lead to a range of mental health issues as a child moves into adolescent and adult life.

“For children with epilepsy, the prospect of living with such an unpredictable condition can understandably be daunting, putting them at risk of developing conditions such as anxiety, OCD or becoming one of the 80,000 children in the UK who are severely depressed.

“Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in young people, so it’s clear from this latest research that in order bring this number down, early recognition is vital.

“That’s why, next spring, a consortium of experts, headed by the RCPCH, is due to launch MindEd, a £2.2 million e-learning resource which will help anyone working with children identify a young person with a mental health issue at the earliest possible stage and recognise the different causes and stress factors.

“By identifying these problems early, health outcomes in childhood will dramatically improve, which will have a knock-on effect in their adult life.”

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