Psychiatric symptoms in Norwegian children with epilepsy aged 8-13 years: effects of age and gender?

Epilepsia. 2011 Jul;52(7):1231-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03042.x. Epub 2011 Mar 29.


Purpose: In this population-based study we wanted to assess the prevalence and impact of psychiatric symptoms in children with epilepsy compared to controls, and investigate possible age and gender differences.

Methods: Data were collected using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire-Parent report (SDQ-P) as part of a more extensive questionnaire. A total of 14,699 parents of children aged 8-13 years (response rate 78%) participated. Associations between SDQ scores and epilepsy, other chronic disease, age, gender, and socioeconomic factors were explored using logistic regression analysis.

Key findings: Children with epilepsy (CWE) (n=110) had a significantly higher frequency of psychiatric symptoms (37.8% vs. 17.0% in controls, p<0.001). Gender differences were found in several subscales of the SDQ; girls had more emotional problems, whereas boys had higher scores regarding peer relationship and hyperactivity/inattention problems. Male gender, low socioeconomic status (family income below poverty limit and living in a single parent home), and other chronic disease (asthma/diabetes) were independent risk factors of developing psychiatric symptoms, along with epilepsy. Having or having had epilepsy was, however, a much stronger risk factor for developing psychiatric symptoms in girls than in boys [odds ratio (OR) 4.2 vs. OR 2.3]. A minor effect of age was seen only in girls with epilepsy, with an increased risk of psychiatric symptoms in age group 10-13 years (OR 1.28 for scoring borderline/abnormal on SDQ-total difficulties). Borderline/abnormal impact scores were found in 31.8% of CWE compared with 13.0% of controls (p<0.001).

Significance: Multiple risk factors contribute to the high prevalence of psychiatric symptoms in CWE, perhaps differently in boys and girls. Awareness of this complex interaction may help target intervention toward high risk groups and thus prevent more serious problems from arising.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors