Depression affects between 30% and 50% of individuals with epilepsy. This is much higher than in the general population where depression affects approximately 5%-10% of adults at any given time. This increased prevalence of depression among individuals with epilepsy is not simply the result of having a chronic medical condition; depression rates in epilepsy are higher than in other chronic medical conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.
Depression has been shown to be the single best predictor of quality of life in individuals with epilepsy, even after taking into account the number of seizures an individual experiences. Research studies have shown that the presence of depression can even increase the number of seizures a person with epilepsy has.
Depression has been shown to be the single best predictor of quality of life in individuals with epilepsy.
Compared to individuals with epilepsy who do not have depression, individuals with epilepsy and depression experience higher rates of suicide, have a lower ability to function in social and occupational settings, visit the doctor and emergency room more often, and have a lower overall quality of life, independent of seizure frequency. Suicide is a major concern in this population: suicide rates in individuals with epilepsy are signficantly higher than in the general population, and suicide accounts for over 10% of all deaths in people with epilepsy, compared to 1% in the general population. Unemployment rates among adults with frequent seizures are also much higher than in the general population, and depression can often be an added barrier to gaining successful employment.
A research study at the University of Washington
has demonstrated that the PEARLS Program is effective at reducing depression and improving quality of life and among adults with epilepsy.+
+Ciechanowski, P., Chaytor, N., Miller, J., Russo, J., Fraser, R., Unützer, J., Gilliam, F., and PEARLS Research Team. PEARLS depression treatment for individuals with epilepsy: A randomized controlled trial. Accepted for publication in Epilepsy and Behavior.