Outcomes of childhood epilepsy at age 33 years: a population-based birth-cohort study

Epilepsia. 2011 Aug;52(8):1513-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03170.x. Epub 2011 Jul 18.


Purpose: There is uncertainty about health and socioeconomic outcomes of children with epilepsy, knowledge of adult outcomes, and factors associated with adverse outcomes are essential to guide prognosis, improve management, and determine appropriate allocation of resources.

Methods: A subgroup of 101 children with epilepsy (onset ≤ age 16 years) were previously identified and reported from the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), a national United Kingdom birth cohort study. In the current study we examine outcomes of this unique childhood epilepsy subgroup at age 33 compared to unaffected NCDS cohort members in mental and general health, education and employment, marriage, and parenthood. Multivariable regression analyses were used to investigate factors (including etiology, cognitive development, parental interest, and childhood anxiety/depression at age 11 years) associated with adverse outcomes. key findings: Sixty-five (66%) were still participating at 33 years. Median follow-up after epilepsy onset was 28 years (range 17-33 years). Thirty participants [46%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 35-58] had epilepsy onset <5 years, 32 (49%, 95% CI 37-61) had "symptomatic" epilepsy, and 33 (51%, 95% CI 39-63) had idiopathic epilepsy. Thirty-one participants (48%) reported being seen by their doctor for epilepsy in the preceding year, 27 (42%) were registered disabled, 39 (60%) had a drivers license, and 42 (65%) thought their epilepsy made it harder to get/keep a paid job. People who had childhood epilepsy had an increased risk of death [standardized mortality rate (SMR) 3.1, 95% CI 1.1-6.1]. Childhood epilepsy was associated with poor general and mental health at 33 years on univariable analyses, but not after adjusting for childhood cognitive development/comorbidities and anxiety over acceptance by peers/adults at age 11. Childhood epilepsy was an independent risk factor for not being married [odds ratio (OR) 0.45, 95% CI 0.05-0.94] or being a parent (OR 0.67, 95% CI 0.42-0.91). People with childhood epilepsy and poor cognitive development compared to those with poor cognitive development without epilepsy had a greater proportion with subsequent poor mental health (56% vs. 24%, difference in proportion 33%, 95% CI 12-50), and a lesser proportion who married (39% vs. 78%, difference in proportion -39%, 95% CI -56 to -19).

Significance: Compared to the unaffected population, children with epilepsy with good cognitive development/without comorbidities have similar adult health, educational, and employment outcomes but have difficulties with establishing and maintaining personal relationships. A combination of having childhood epilepsy plus poor cognitive development is more likely to be associated with adverse outcomes compared to having poor cognitive development without childhood epilepsy. Children with epilepsy have increased risk of death compared to the rest of the population. Pharmacologic management alone is inadequate and long-term psychosocial support is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Epilepsy / psychology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Mental Health
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Parents