Social determinants of health in epilepsy


      • A theoretical framework is proposed to study social factors in epilepsy.
      • Epilepsy outcomes vary by social category, context, and mediating conditions.
      • Disparities in epilepsy result from social differentials among individuals/groups.
      • Material, psychosocial, and care factors mediate disparities in epilepsy.
      • Theory-based research is the first step toward eliminating disparities in epilepsy.


      Social factors have been identified as key drivers of epilepsy care, outcomes, and disparities, but there is a limited understanding of what these factors are and how they translate into disparities. This targeted review provides an overview of the social determinants of health framework and applies this perspective to the literature about social and psychosocial factors in epilepsy; a social determinants of health — epilepsy model is proposed. The key social determinants of health in epilepsy include socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, age, and gender. For example, low socioeconomic status and minority status have been associated with a higher risk of epilepsy, more hospitalizations and emergency room visits (versus neurology services), antiepileptic drug nonadherence, and a lower rate of epilepsy surgery. Such differences in care/treatment and outcomes translate into health disparities, many of which are considered unjust (inequitable) and modifiable through social action. Other social determinants of health include structural and sociocultural contextual conditions (e.g., health economy, policy, and social stigma/discrimination) and mediating mechanisms including material (e.g., housing), behavioral/biological (e.g., adherence), psychosocial (e.g., perceived stigma), and health system (e.g., access) factors. There are complex relationships among social determinants of health in epilepsy, which remain poorly understood and hamper efforts to address and eliminate disparities in epilepsy care and outcomes. Further empirical work grounded in sound theory and robust methodologies is needed to identify points of intervention and design effective and socially acceptable solutions to any pervasive disparities in epilepsy.


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