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Prevalence of epilepsy in rural China: a decreasing trend over 12 years
  1. Mengjie Wang1,
  2. Ding Ding2,
  3. Guoxing Zhu1,
  4. Qing Zhang3,
  5. Taiping Wang4,
  6. Yinghui Chen5,
  7. Wenzhi Wang6,
  8. Zhen Hong2,
  9. Shichuo Li7,
  10. Josemir W Sander8,9
  1. 1 Department of Neurology, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  2. 2 Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Institute of Neurology, WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Neurosciences, Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
  3. 3 Department of Neurology, Ningxia Medical University Affiliated Hospital, Yinchuan, China
  4. 4 Jincheng Medical Emergency Aid Center, Shanxi, China
  5. 5 Department of Neurology, Huashan Hospital North, Shanghai, China
  6. 6 Beijing Neurosurgical Institute, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
  7. 7 China Association against Epilepsy, Beijing, China
  8. 8 NIHR University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology & Chalfont Centre for Epilepsy, London, UK
  9. 9 Stichting Epilepsie Instellingen Nederland, SEIN, Heemstede, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ding Ding, Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Institute of Neurology, Huashan Hospital, Fudan Univeristy, Shanghai 200040, China; dingding{at}

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Epilepsy is a common neurological condition with severe personal, familial and societal impact. In 2003, it was estimated that there were at least 9 million people with epilepsy in China.1 In the last two decades, there has been significant economic growth, rapid urbanisation and demographic changes with an increased ageing of the Chinese population which may all have impacted epilepsy prevalence. A systematic review2 using modelling recently suggested that epilepsy prevalence in China has dramatically increased, having more than doubled. This is, however, not consistent with the notion that epilepsy is a condition with a generally low prevalence.3

We have conducted two cross-sectional population-based surveys 12 years apart, and this has provided some insight into the question as the surveys provided an indication of secular trends in the life-time prevalence of epilepsy.


Study design

In both surveys, we applied multi-stage random cluster sampling based on Chinese census units in three rural areas which represented different geographical areas, ethnicities and economic levels (online supplementary figure S1). Participants were enrolled if they were residents in the area. Lists of residents were extracted from the local population registration system. The survey procedure included two stages of screening and ascertaining epilepsy cases in the target population.1

Supplementary data


The first epidemiological survey was carried out during 2000 and 2002. We conducted the second survey during 2012 and 2013 in the same general areas with identical protocol and questionnaires as used in the 2000–2002 survey. Populations in each site in the two surveys did …

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  • Contributors DD, ZH, SCL and JWS conceptualised and designed the study. GXZ, QZ, TPW, YHC and WZW organised and conducted the survey. MJW analysed data. MJW, DD and JWS drafted the manuscript. All authors were involved in the interpretation of data, critically reviewed the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding The China Association against Epilepsy and Key Research Project of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (Grant No. 2016YFC0904400).

  • Competing interests JWS is based at UCLH/UCL Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre, which receives a proportion of funding from the UK Department of Health’s NIHR Research Centers funding scheme. He receives support from the Dr. Marvin Weil Epilepsy Research Fund, UK Epilepsy Society and Christelijke Vereniging voor de Verpleging van Lijders aan Epilepsie, The Netherlands. JWS has received research funding from Eisai, GSK and UCB, personal fees from Eisai, UCB, Zogenix and GW Pharma.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Ethics approval The 2000-2002 survey was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of Beijing Neurosurgical Institute, Beijing, China. The 2012-2013 survey was approved by the Medical Ethics Committee of Huashan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Additional data are provided as supplementary documents.

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