An estimate of the prevalence of epilepsy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic analysis

Abigail Paul, Davies Adeloye, Rhiannon George-Carey, Ivana Kolčić, Elizabeth Grant, Kit Yee Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Epilepsy is a leading serious neurological condition worldwide and has particularly significant physical, economic and social consequences in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of epilepsy prevalence in this region and how this varies by age and sex so as to inform understanding of the disease characteristics as well as the development of infrastructure, services and policies. METHODS: A parallel systematic analysis of Medline, Embase and Global Health returned 32 studies that satisfied pre-defined quality criteria. Relevant data was extracted, tabulated and analyzed. We modelled the available information and used the UN population figures for Africa to determine the age-specific and overall burden of epilepsy.

RESULTS: Active epilepsy was estimated to affect 4.4 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, whilst lifetime epilepsy was estimated to affect 5.4 million. The prevalence of active epilepsy peaks in the 20-29 age group at 11.5/1000 and again in the 40-49 age group at 8.2/1000. The lowest prevalence value of 3.1/1000 is seen in the 60+ age group. This binomial pattern is also seen in both men and women, with the second peak more pronounced in women at 14.6/1000.

CONCLUSION: The high prevalence of epilepsy, especially in young adults, has important consequences for both the workforce and community structures. An estimation of disease burden would be a beneficial outcome of further research, as would research into appropriate methods of improving health care for and tackling discrimination against people with epilepsy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20405
JournalJournal of Global Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012

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