September 18, 2019

High-Resolution Mapping Shows Differences in Epilepsy Prevalence Depending Upon Socioeconomic Status in an Urban Area in Sweden

Objective: Geographic differences in epilepsy prevalence between areas of different socioeconomic standing have been demonstrated in the United Kingdom, but knowledge from other health care systems is scarce. This team’s objective was to compare epilepsy prevalence and emergency medical service (EMS) assignments for seizures in areas of different socioeconomic standings in the urban area of Gothenburg.

Methods: Register-based study in Gothenburg (population 690 000), the second largest city in Sweden. Epilepsy cases were identified in the comprehensive national patient register in 2014-2015. EMS assignments were identified in the EMS dispatch system in 2013-2018. Socioeconomic variables were mean income and proportion of welfare recipients.

Results: Significant correlations were seen between epilepsy prevalence and the proportion of welfare recipients (r = .49, P = .0014) and annual income per capita (r = -.42, P = .0071). There were 7907 assignments for seizures during the study years. GPS-based analysis showed that most assignments occurred in the city center. In addition, several high-density areas correlated with areas with a high proportion of inhabitants receiving welfare. Correlation analysis showed significant associations between the number of EMS assignments per capita and the proportion of welfare recipients (r = .31, P < .0001) and income (r = -.19, P < .0001). When comparing representative areas, a greater proportion of assignments was given the highest priority in high status areas compared to low status areas, both by the dispatch center and EMS clinicians on scene.

Significance: These findings that epilepsy prevalence and seizure frequency differ with socioeconomic status on a microgeographic level considerably strengthen the generalizability of previous observations across different health care systems. Differences in priority may reflect health utilization behavior or access to neurologic care.

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