Investigating the awareness, behavior, and attitude toward epilepsy among university students in Benghazi, Libya

Publication date: June 2018Source:Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 83
Author(s): Moftah H. Alhagamhmad, Nuri M. Shembesh
ObjectiveThe aim of this study was to explore the level of knowledge regarding epilepsy and attitudes prevalent toward people with epilepsy (PWE) among Libyan university students in comparison with international data.MethodsA self-administrated questionnaire on awareness regarding epilepsy and behaviors toward PWE was distributed among undergraduate students enrolled in the University of Benghazi. The collected data were analyzed against responses from an Italian survey that utilized a similar questionnaire to explore epilepsy-related knowledge and attitudes among Italian university students in Rome (Mecarelli et al., 2007).ResultsOut of the 500 interviewed students, 96% successfully completed the survey. Further, 96.6% asserted that they possessed some knowledge regarding epilepsy, gained mainly from their families (76.6%). A total of 57.5% considered epilepsy to be a psychiatric disorder while 11.6% recommended psychological tests for the diagnosis of epilepsy. Moreover, 37.5% believed in ancient superstitions, such as possession by evil forces, as the underlying cause of the condition, and 31.8% recommended traditional remedies to cure it. Further, 66.6% deemed epilepsy as a barrier for career prospects, 41% indicated that it presents an impediment in participation in sports, and 35% considered it as an obstacle in marriage. Additionally, epilepsy was perceived as a severe illness by 53.3% of the respondents and considered to be a moderately severe condition by 43.7%. The responses were found to be statistically significant (P<0.05) against the responses from the Italian study.ConclusionThere is a reasonable level of awareness regarding epilepsy among Libyan students, though a lack of accuracy in the acquired knowledge exists. The ancient misconceptions regarding the nature of epilepsy and negative attitudes toward PWE appear to be rather common among the Libyan students. Consequently, the discrepancies in the views between the two surveys concerning the ways in which epilepsy is perceived and PWE are treated were extremely evident, thus reflecting the already established view that epilepsy faces greater stigma as a health condition in developing countries in comparison with Western nations.