Epilepsy Knowledge and Attitudes Survey
Conducted by Amarach Research for Epilepsy Ireland
Earlier this year, Epilepsy Ireland placed a number of questions on the Amárach Research January omnibus. A total sample of 1,001 was achieved with quotas set on gender, age, social class and region to achieve a sample aligned with national population. The research was conducted from January 14th – 18th.
The findings reveal that significant misunderstanding persists among the public in relation to epilepsy. It also found that misunderstanding was generally more prevalent in younger age categories and in Dublin.
Each question is summarised below. A fuller analysis can be found by downloading the pdf at the bottom of the page. See also our news item on this survey.
Do you know of anyone who has epilepsy?
Almost half (45%) of the Irish population know someone who has epilepsy. The figure was highest among respondents living in Dublin and among the 25-34 age category.
Has anyone ever had a seizure in your presence?
38% of people have witnessed a seizure, while 45% have not. Those who know someone with epilepsy are significantly more likely to have witnessed an epileptic seizure (60% compared to 21% of those who do not know someone with epilepsy). People aged over 55 years of age were the most likely age group to have witnessed a seizure.
Would you know what to do if someone was having a seizure in your presence?
43% of people say that they would know what to do if they saw someone having a seizure, although in this particular question, they were not asked to explain what they would actually do. Those who know someone with epilepsy were more likely to say they knew what they should do (62%) if someone has a seizure compared to those who don't know someone with epilepsy (29%). Men were more likely to answer Yes to the question compared to women (46% compared to 40%).
Would you employ a person with epilepsy?
63% of people said that they would employ a person with epilepsy, while 19% said they would not and 18% said they didn't know. Those who know someone with epilepsy are likely to have a greater understanding and are therefore more likely to employ someone with epilepsy 25% of people who do not know anyone with epilepsy said they would not employ a person with epilepsy, while just 10% of those who knew someone with epilepsy agreed.
Answer true, false or don't know – Epilepsy is a contagious condition?
While 86% of people are aware that epilepsy cannot be "caught" from another person, it is still surprising to note that 7% of people think that epilepsy is contagious whilst a further 7% are unsure, potentially leading to discrimination and exclusion. Women are more likely to know epilepsy is not contagious (92%) compared to men (80%). People in the 25-34 age category and were the least likely to know it is not contagious (76%) while Dublin (80%) was area least likely to know the correct answer.
Answer true, false or don't know – the majority of people with epilepsy must avoid flashing or flickering lights
It is believed by over 70% of people that the majority of people who have epilepsy must avoid flashing/flickering lights. In reality less than 5% of people with epilepsy are photosensitive. Only 12% of respondents knew this myth to be untrue. Those in the 25-34 age category were the least likely to answer correctly.
Answer true, false or don't know – Almost all seizures involve falling to the ground followed by jerking movements.
There is confusion among respondents on the effects of an epileptic seizure. The data indicates that almost half (43%) believe that almost all seizures involve falling on the ground in convulsions (i.e. tonic clonic seizures). 38% of people knew that this was not the case.
Answer true, false or don't know – not all seizures require immediate medical intervention
56% of people were aware that not all seizures require immediate medical attention. Younger age groups are significantly more likely to believe that all seizures require medical attention. People who know someone with epilepsy are more likely to say they don't require medical attention (62%) compared to those who don't know someone with epilepsy. People living in Connaught were most likely to answer correctly (62%) while those in Dublin were least likely (46%).
Answer true, false or don't know – having epilepsy negatively affects a person's intelligence?
While 83% stated that having epilepsy does not affect intelligence, 17% of the population think, or are unsure as to whether people with epilepsy are less intelligent as a result of their condition. Women were more likely to answer false to the question (87%) compared to 78% of men. Again, older age categories were more likely to answer false, compared to the younger age groups.
Answer true, false or don't know – there is a social stigma attached to those who have epilepsy?
50% of respondents believe that a negative stigma is attached to those who have epilepsy. This instance is highest in respondents who know someone with epilepsy (59%) compared to 45% of those who don't. Men were more likely to attribute stigma to epilepsy (55%) compared to 45% of women. Generally older age groups, as well as those living in Dublin and Connaught were more likely to agree that epilepsy was stigmatised.
What actions would you take if you witnessed someone have a seizure? Place something in their mouth to prevent them swallowing their tongue
Over half (51%) of respondents would place something in a person's mouth to prevent them from swallowing their tongue if they were having a seizure. Less than 1 in 3 people knew that this was the wrong thing to do. Men were more likely than women to put something in a person's mouth (56%) compared to women (45%) while those aged over 55 years old were more likely to believe the myth (61%). Those who know someone with epilepsy are less likely to.
What actions would you take if you witnessed someone have a seizure? Shorten the seizure by throwing water on the person's face.
If someone was having a seizure, it is unlikely that that people would throw water on their face in an effort to stop the seizure. Even so, 7% of people felt this was a recommended first aid intervention and 19% were unsure. Women were more likely answer No (82%) compared to men (66%). Older age groups were less likely to take this course of action compared to younger people while again, people in Munster and Connaught were more aware compared to those elsewhere.
What actions would you take if you witnessed someone have a seizure?
Stop the seizure by restraining the person's movements.
Almost 1 in 5 (18%) respondents would restrain a person's movements if they were having a seizure, believing that it will help stop the seizure. 59% of people knew that restraining a person is the incorrect thing to do. Again, women, older people and those living in Connaught and Munster were more likely to know not to restrain a person.
What actions would you take if you witnessed someone have a seizure? Stay with the person until the seizure is over.
While 90% of people say that they would stay with a person having a seizure, it is shocking to note that 10% of respondents stated that they wouldn't / would be unsure if they would stay with a person until the seizure was over. People in older age categories were more likely to indicate they would stay with a person that younger respondents.
What actions would you take if you witnessed someone have a seizure?Automatically call an ambulance.
59% of respondents would automatically call an ambulance if they witnessed somebody having an epileptic seizure. People living in Dublin and those in younger age categories were more likely to do. An ambulance should only be called if you know it is the person's first seizure, if the seizure continues for more than five minutes, if one seizure follows another without the person regaining awareness between the seizures, if the person is injured during the seizure or if you believe the person needs urgent medical attention.