Epilepsy and the Risk of Violent Crime Are Not Linked, Scientists Find

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), December 28, 2011 | Go to article overview

Epilepsy and the Risk of Violent Crime Are Not Linked, Scientists Find


EPILEPSY is not associated with an increased risk of violent crime, new research shows.

The work is another blow to the misconception that people with epilepsy are also violent, and experts said the results should be used to improve public attitudes towards and perceptions of the illness.

The research questions previous expert opinion, which has suggested a causal relationship between epilepsy and violence.

The idea that epilepsy - along with some other neurological disorders - are associated with a risk of violence was widespread in the 19th century. The researchers, from the University of Oxford, alongside a number of Swedish experts, examined the Swedish population registers between 1973 and 2009 for any associations between epilepsy and convictions for violent crime, which included murder, sexual offences, assault and intimidation.

Among those with epilepsy, 973 (4.2%) committed a violent offence after diagnosis, significantly increased odds compared with population controls.

But this association disappeared when individuals with epilepsy were compared with their unaffected siblings.

The researchers said: "For epilepsy, the findings of an absolute rate of violent crime of 4% and the lack of any association in the sibling control study should be seen in the context of expert opinion in the field that states that the link is strong.

"These findings are also potentially important with respect to the fact that epilepsy remains heavily stigmatised.

"Previous views may have been influenced by high-profile criminal cases of individuals with epilepsy who committed homicide and reports of high prevalence of epilepsy in prisoners, and the latter have not been subsequently confirmed. …

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Epilepsy and the Risk of Violent Crime Are Not Linked, Scientists Find
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