Tasmania has the highest prevalence of epilepsy in Australia, according to new research, which shows the neurological condition is the second-most burdensome to live with, after dementia.
Released on Monday, the Epilepsy - A Focus on Tasmania report from Epilepsy Tasmania provides new insights into epilepsy, comparing Tasmanian statistics against national and international data.
It found people with epilepsy die at three times the rate of the general population and at an average age of 52, compared to the average life expectancy of 80 to 84 years of age.
In schools, epilepsy is now the third most common health condition after diabetes, asthma, and is one of the top five avoidable causes of death among five to 29-year-olds.
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Epilepsy Tasmania chief executive Wendy Groot said epilepsy rates in Tasmania were expected to rise, with the economic burden already costing the state about $11.8 million a year.
"This is the most comprehensive epilepsy research ever undertaken in Tasmania and provides a strong mandate from which to call for sustained and coordinated action to ensure every person with epilepsy has access to the care and treatment they need, and the opportunity to live free from stigma and discrimination," she said.
"The research shows Tasmania has the highest prevalence of epilepsy than any other state or territory in Australia, with the figure expected to rise due to our older than average population, general rising life expectancy and an increasing proportion of people surviving incidents that often lead to epilepsy."
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that is characterised by abnormal electrical activity causing seizures or unusual behaviour, sensations and sometimes loss of awareness.
About 20,000 Tasmanians have epilepsy, and for every person with epilepsy there are about four others providing care and support.
This means one-fifth of Tasmania's population is directly affected by the condition.
Ms Groot said the new research showed urgent actions were needed across Tasmania to:
- Promote epilepsy as a public health priority to reduce its burden;
- Improve public attitudes and promote the protection of the rights of people with epilepsy;
- Invest in health and social care systems to improve accessibility to epilepsy care;
- Prevent acquired epilepsies through improved care for common causes;
- Increase the priority of epilepsy for research agendas.
"I hope this report will re-energise and guide government, policy-makers and stakeholders to reduce the economic and social impact of epilepsy in Tasmania," she said.