Research Activities, May 2013

Lost productivity of people with epilepsy results in significant economic burden

Chronic Disease

Despite advances in treatment, individuals with epilepsy are often not able to be productive citizens at work. In fact, a new study found significant economic disparities for people with epilepsy compared to those without epilepsy, including high unemployment rates and lost work days. The annual loss of productivity for a person with epilepsy was more than three times higher than that observed for individuals with diabetes or depression. 

The researchers used national medical expenditure data to compare 1,026 people with epilepsy (representing 864,958 people with epilepsy nationally) with 383,090 people of the 2008–2009 United States population without epilepsy (representing 305 million people without epilepsy nationally) to estimate the economic burden and employment-based lost productivity among those with epilepsy. They collected information on coexisting medical conditions, health care expenditures, employment status, and missed days of work due to illness or injury.

The researchers also calculated lost productivity for epilepsy and other chronic conditions. People with epilepsy were found to be married less often than those without the condition. They were also more likely to suffer from anxiety/depression and be covered by public health insurance. Health care use and related costs were two to three times higher for those with epilepsy. These individuals also had higher rates of medical provider visits and prescription medications as well as higher total annual health care expenditures than people without epilepsy. There were also significant disparities in other areas. For example, the odds of earning a college degree or higher were 30 percent lower for those with epilepsy. Nearly a quarter of the epilepsy population studied was poor or near poor. In addition, 42 percent of those with epilepsy were employed compared to 70 percent of those without the disease.

Individuals living with epilepsy had 56 percent lower odds of being employed compared to individuals without the condition and missed an average of 12 days of work compared to only 4 days for those without epilepsy. Their loss of productivity was $9,504 in 2011 dollars compared to individuals without epilepsy. This compares to an annual average lost productivity valued at $3,358 for diabetes, $3,182 for depression, $2,316 for anxiety, $1,519 for asthma, and $651 for hypertension. The study was supported in part by AHRQ (HS19464). 

See "Economic differences in direct and indirect costs between people with epilepsy and without epilepsy," by Anne M. Libby, Ph.D., Vahram Ghushchyan, Ph.D., Robert Brett McQueen, M.A., and others in the November 2012 Medical Care 50(11), pp. 928-933.


Page last reviewed May 2013
Page originally created May 2013
Internet Citation: Lost productivity of people with epilepsy results in significant economic burden. Content last reviewed May 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.