Educational and health outcomes of children and adolescents receiving antiepileptic medication: Scotland-wide record linkage study of 766 244 schoolchildren

Michael Fleming (Corresponding Author), Catherine A. Fitton, Markus F. C. Steiner, James S. McLay, David Clark, Albert King, Daniel F. Mackay, Jill P. Pell

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BACKGROUND: Childhood epilepsy can adversely affect education and employment in addition to health. Previous studies are small or highly selective producing conflicting results. This retrospective cohort study aims to compare educational and health outcomes of children receiving antiepileptic medication versus peers.

METHODS: Record linkage of Scotland-wide databases covering dispensed prescriptions, acute and psychiatric hospitalisations, maternity records, deaths, annual pupil census, school absences/exclusions, special educational needs, school examinations, and (un)employment provided data on 766,244 children attending Scottish schools between 2009 and 2013. Outcomes were adjusted for sociodemographic and maternity confounders and comorbid conditions.

RESULTS: Compared with peers, children on antiepileptic medication were more likely to experience school absence (Incidence Rate Ratio [IRR] 1.43, 95% CI: 1.38, 1.48), special educational needs (Odds ratio [OR] 9.60, 95% CI: 9.02, 10.23), achieve the lowest level of attainment (OR 3.43, 95% CI: 2.74, 4.29) be unemployed (OR 1.82, 95% CI: 1.60, 2.07), be admitted to hospital (Hazard Ratio [HR] 3.56, 95% CI: 3.42, 3.70), and die (HR 22.02, 95% CI: 17.00, 28.53). Absenteeism partly explained poorer attainment and higher unemployment. Girls and younger children on antiepileptic medication had higher risk of poor outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Children on antiepileptic medication fare worse than peers across educational and health outcomes. In order to reduce school absenteeism and mitigate its effects, children with epilepsy should receive integrated care from a multidisciplinary team that spans education and healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
Article number595
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2019

Bibliographical note

The study was sponsored by Health Data Research UK ( which is a joint investment led by the Medical Research Council, together with the National Institute for Health Research (England), the Chief Scientist Office (Scotland), Health and Care Research Wales, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Heart Foundation and Wellcome. This study formed part of a wider PhD thesis undertaken by the lead author within the University of Glasgow, which was published in 2017. Therefore, certain sections of this paper appear in the thesis, which is accessible and downloadable from the following link:

The study was sponsored by Health Data Research UK. The sponsor and funders had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review or approval of the manuscript, or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Availability of data and materials
The authors applied for permission to access, link and analyse these data and undertook mandatory training in data protection, IT security and information governance. Therefore, the datasets generated and analysed during the study are not publicly available.


  • Epilepsy
  • Educational Outcomes
  • Health
  • Population cohort
  • Record linkage
  • Prescribing
  • Educational outcomes


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