The long‐term development of public attitudes towards people with epilepsy in the Czech Republic: 1981, 1984, 1998 and 2009 studies

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It has been well known that for people with epilepsy (PWE), their health condition is a stigma1 This stigma operates at different levels, one of which is the social interaction between PWE and the healthy population. In this study, we focused on the long‐term development of the public attitude towards PWE. The first questionnaire on public attitudes towards epilepsy was designed by Caveness in 1949 using a Gallup poll in the USA and included questions that were later used in the Czech studies.2 The study by Caveness was subsequently repeated and modified in various countries across five continents (for review, see Lim et al. 2011).3
Our first study was performed in the region of South Moravia in 1981 by Rektor et al. in 19834 and replicated with almost identical results in the region of South Bohemia in 1984.5 The Czech responses clearly reflected more negative public attitudes to PWE than the responses from similar studies carried out in the USA and in Western Germany in 1978.2 Further studies were carried out under nearly identical conditions in the South Moravia region. The questionnaire was slightly modified, but the four basic questions from the Caveness study (1949) remained unchanged. In the 1998 study,7 evaluable responses were obtained from 235 people. People's acquaintance with epilepsy was significantly higher than in the 1981 study. In 1998, about 94% of the people surveyed had some information about epilepsy (78% in 1981). Intolerance towards children with epilepsy dropped from 29% to 13%. About 30% of the people surveyed considered epilepsy to be a mental disease (50% in 1981). Employment of people with epilepsy was recommended by 74% (42% in 1981). In contrast to the situation 16 years earlier, there were fewer important differences from the results of similar surveys taken in other European countries. Despite the improvement of public knowledge, the willingness to help a person having a seizure was rather low, indicating that the quality of information was not fully satisfactory. Here, we report the results of the 2009 study in the context of the development of public attitudes towards PWE over a 28‐year period.

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