December 16, 2022

Attitudes Towards Persons with Epilepsy as Friends. Results of a Factorial Survey

Abstract found on PubMed

Objective: Discrimination against persons with epilepsy (PWE) may still persist. The aim of the study was to examine whether epilepsy is an obstacle to desired friendship.

Methods: A factorial survey (vignettes), which is less biased by social desirability, was applied to PWE, their relatives, and lay persons. The vignettes described a person who was varied by the dimensions of age (younger, same age, older), gender (male, female), disease (healthy, mild epilepsy, severe epilepsy [generalized tonic-clonic seizures], diabetes), origin (German, non-German), contact (phone/internet, activities at home, activities outside), frequency of contacts (weekly, monthly), and distance (around the corner, 10km away). Respondents rated their willingness to befriend with the person on a 10-point Likert scale. Multivariate regression determined the contribution of each dimension on the judgement.

Results: Participants were 64 PWE (age: 37.1±14.0 years), 64 relatives of PWE (age: 45.1±13.6 years), and 98 controls without contacts to PWE (age: 24.4±10.1 years). Controls were less interested in a friendship towards a PWE with mild epilepsy (-3.4%) and even more avoided PWE with severe epilepsy (-11.7%) while in PWE with tonic clonic seizures, a mild form of epilepsy was even conducive for friendship (+7.0%). Controls preferred females (+5.0%) and disliked younger people (-12.3%) and contacts via the internet or telephone (-7.3%). PWE were also less interested in younger people (-5.8%), and relatives of PWE had a lower preference in friendships with longer distance (-2.3%).

Significance: PWE still suffer from a risk of social avoidance and this becomes more evident with generalized motor seizures.