People with epilepsy still feel stigmatized

Objectives

Those affected with epilepsy have long been subject to stigmatization. This may have manifold negative effects, for example social isolation, low self-esteem, reduced quality of life and worsening of seizures.

In Norway educational programs have been arranged at the National Centre for Epilepsy, aiming at reducing stigma and shame associated with epilepsy, and thereby increase the quality of life for those affected and their families. Thus, we wanted to explore the extent of self-reported perceived stigma and experienced discrimination in a Norwegian cohort with epilepsy.

Materials and Methods

We conducted a web-based questionnaire survey in Norway. Participants were asked to provide background and epilepsy-related information. In addition, they were encouraged to answer questions regarding felt stigmatization in different situations and to rate stigma according to the Jacoby stigma scale.

Results

Of 1182 respondents, 56% reported to have felt being stigmatized, and 35% reported to have experienced discrimination solely on the ground of the disease. 70% of respondents reported at least one type of perceived or experienced stigma. After controlling for gender, age, perceived depression and seizure freedom, reports of experienced stigmatization was a statistically significant independent predictor for reduced quality of life.

Conclusions

A considerable proportion of people with epilepsy in Norway feel stigmatized and/or subject to discrimination, which negatively affects their quality of life.

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