The association of stigma with self-management and perceptions of health care among adults with epilepsy

Colleen DiIorio, Patricia Osborne Shafer, Richard Letz, Thomas Henry, Donald L. Schomer, Katherine Yeager

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

168 Scopus citations


Objective. The purpose of this study was to examine the perception of stigma among adults with epilepsy including its association with epilepsy self-management and perceptions of health care. Methods. Participants for the study were recruited from two epilepsy centers and a neurology clinic. Individuals agreeing to participate in the study were asked to complete three assessments each 3 months apart. Data were collected from 320 adult men and women with epilepsy; 314 provided responses on stigma and were included in this analysis. Results. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 75 years (mean = 43). Fifty percent of the sample was female, and 80% was white. The mean age of seizure onset was 22 years, and 76% of participants reported having had a seizure within the past year. Analysis suggests levels of perceived stigma are similar for men and women and across ethnic and age groups. However, participants who were not married or living with a partner, were not working for pay, and had limited income reported higher levels of stigma than did married participants, those working for pay, and those in higher income brackets. Participants reporting higher levels of stigma included those who had their first seizure before the age of 50 and a seizure in the last year. Participants whose seizures interfered more with activities, who rated their seizures as under less control, and who were not legally able to drive also reported higher levels of stigma. Tests of association between stigma and health-related variables revealed that participants reporting higher levels of perceived stigma also reported lower levels of self-efficacy to manage epilepsy; more negative outcome expectancies related to treatment and seizures; and lower levels of medication management, medication adherence, and patient satisfaction. However, they also reported greater management of information related to seizures. In regression analysis, income, age at first seizure, seizures during the past year, lower self-efficacy, negative outcome expectancies for seizures, and less patient satisfaction explained 54% of the variance in perceived stigma. Conclusions. The results of the study suggest that perceived stigma is significant for people with epilepsy and is associated with factors that are known to be important in the management of epilepsy. Understanding who is at greatest risk for feeling stigmatized could lead to the development of preventive measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-267
Number of pages9
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Living Well with Epilepsy. Conference sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Epilepsy Foundation, the National Association of Epilepsy Centers, and the American Epilepsy Society, Orlando, FL; 10–11 September 1997


  • Epilepsy
  • Seizures
  • Self-management
  • Stigma


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