Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Epilepsy in the District of Columbia
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Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Epilepsy in the District of Columbia

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  • Alternative Title:
    Epilepsy Res
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  • Description:

    Few studies have found differences in rates of epilepsy by race or ethnicity although previous reports indicate strong links between epilepsy and socioeconomic indicators. We investigated social and demographic factors as they relate to prevalence and incidence of epilepsy in Washington, DC, a culturally diverse area.


    Probability-based sampling was used to select 20,000 DC households that were mailed an epilepsy screening survey. Demographic and epilepsy data were obtained on all household members. Screened individuals with a history of epilepsy or seizure disorder were sent a case survey asking more detailed questions about seizures and treatment which were used to verify case status using the standard case definition. Survey data were weighted to match characteristics of DC residents. Lifetime and active prevalence and incidence of epilepsy were estimated using weighted data and appropriate survey procedures in SAS.

    Key Findings

    Overall survey response rate was 36.6%. 208 cases of epilepsy were identified during screening and 14% with a case survey were considered false positive. Using the verified dataset, lifetime prevalence was 1.53% overall; 0.77% in Whites, 2.13% in Blacks, 3.4% in those with less than a high school diploma, and 2.27% in those with household income less than $30,000. Overall prevalence of active epilepsy was 0.79% and followed similar subgroup comparisons as lifetime prevalence. Age-adjusted lifetime and active epilepsy from multivariate analyses demonstrated significantly higher rates for Blacks compared to Whites and for those not completing high school compared to those that attended graduate school. The overall incidence of epilepsy was 71 per 100,000 persons. Adults with active epilepsy were significantly less likely to live alone than those without epilepsy (36.0% versus 46.1%). Residents of DC for less than four years had the lowest prevalence and incidence of all subgroups indicating a possible healthy mover effect.


    Our study is the first to provide region-specific estimates and profiles of the epilepsy population in DC which can help inform policy makers and healthcare providers on where to better target resources to improve the health and outcomes of people with epilepsy and their families.

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