More effective interventions may be needed to help tackle the prevalent misconceptions and stigma that exists around epilepsy in Western nations, according to a new study.
Led by a team at Northern Illinois University, the study reviewed the findings of previous research into epilepsy misconceptions, and the effectiveness of interventions to tackle these misconceptions, in the developed nations of Europe, the Americas and Australia.
After searching for English-language publications from January 2004 to January 2015, the researchers assessed total of 81 studies, which looked at misconceptions and attitudes towards epilepsy among clinical providers, family members of people with epilepsy, teachers, students and the general public.
According to the results, published in the medical journal Epilepsy & Behavior, the misconceptions uncovered by these studies generally reflected socially exclusionary attitudes directed at people with epilepsy, along with ignorance about treatment methods and over-generalisations that lead to stigmatisation.
The misconceptions were generally shown to be more prevalent in those with a lower education and socioeconomic status, and no real-life exposure to people with epilepsy.
Only 12 intervention studies that aimed to address the problem were included in this review. Whilst it was shown that they were generally effective in improving attitudes, many were time-consuming and targeted specifically at those in healthcare and education settings, making them impractical for use among the general population.
Moreover, none of them incorporated modern technology-based strategies to achieve the most effective communication of their health messages, meaning that there is considerable scope for improvement.
The researchers concluded: “Types of epilepsy misconceptions were similar in reports published over the last decade, although most referred to misconceptions that have already been previously described. Existing questionnaires may fail to identify more subtle forms of current misconceptions and negative attitudes.
“Few interventional studies specifically target epilepsy stigma. Practical and broad scalable approaches to destigmatise epilepsy may help reduce misconceptions.”
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