Prevalence and pattern of epilepsy in India

Epilepsia. 1999 May;40(5):631-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1999.tb05566.x.


Purpose: To estimate the prevalence of epilepsy in India by meta-analysis of previously published and unpublished studies and to determine patterns of epilepsy by using community-based studies.

Methods: We attempted to identify as many previously published and unpublished studies as possible on the prevalence of epilepsy in India. The studies were assessed with regard to methods and definitions. The prevalence rates for rural and urban populations and for men and women were calculated with a 95% confidence interval (CI). The studies that provided details on age structure, age-specific rates, and patterns of epilepsy were chosen for meta-analysis. Both crude values and age-standardized prevalence rates were calculated after accounting for heterogeneity.

Results: Twenty studies were found involving a sample population of 598,910, among whom 3,207 had epilepsy. This resulted in a crude prevalence of 5.35/1,000. After a correction for heterogeneity due to interstudy variation, the overall prevalence per 1,000 (and its 95% CI) was 5.33 (4.25-6.41); with urban areas at 5.11 (3.49-6.73); rural areas, 5.47 (4.04-6.9); men, 5.88 (3.89-7.87); and women 5.51 (3.49-7.53). After correction for the variability in estimates of heterogeneity, age-standardized rates (from five studies) revealed that the prevalence rates per 1,000 (and the 95% CI), were as follows: overall, 5.59 (4.15-7.03); men, 6.05 (3.79-8.31); women, 5.18 (3.04-7.32); urban, 6.34 (3.43-9.25); rural, 4.94 (3.12-6.76). Urban men and women had a higher prevalence of epilepsy compared with rural ones, however the difference was not statistically significant. Age-specific prevalence rates were higher in the younger age group, with the onset of epilepsy reported mostly in the first three decades of the sample population's lives. The treatment gap (i.e., the percentage of those with epilepsy who were receiving no or inadequate treatment) was more than 70% in the rural areas.

Conclusions: Based on the total projected population of India in the year 2001, the estimated number of people with epilepsy would be 5.5 million. Based on a single study on the incidence of epilepsy, the number of new cases of epilepsy each year would be close to half a million. Because rural population constitutes 74% of the Indian population, the number of people with epilepsy in rural areas will be approximately 4.1 million, three fourths of whom will not be getting any specific treatment as per the present standard.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Child
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • India / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data