Epilepsy, a neurological disorder that causes seizures, is expected to cost Australia’s economy at least $12 billion AUD over the next year, according to a new report by Deloitte Access Economics.
The Economic Burden of Epilepsy report used data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to demonstrate that the largest component of the $12.3 billion figure stems from productivity costs — which is responsible for $2.3 billion of the total and includes elements like decreased workforce contribution.
There are also high costs to the health care system as well as informal care for patients, equipment and transport.
"The lifetime costs for the estimated 14,603 new cases per year is $22.2 billion. Epilepsy doesn't discriminate, being prevalent across gender, age and location,” the report states. “It is the second most burdensome neurological condition, after dementia, accounting for 14.6% of the burden of disease of all neurological conditions.”
𝗧𝗼𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝗶𝘀 #𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹𝗘𝗽𝗶𝗹𝗲𝗽𝘀𝘆𝗗𝗮𝘆— Epilepsy Queensland (@epilepsyqld) February 9, 2020
In 2019-20 there is estimated 142,740 people living with #epilepsy in Australia costing $12.3 billion. #EpilepsyAustralia released The Economic Burden of Epilepsy in Australia 2019 - 2020. https://t.co/70Rtk7nFLypic.twitter.com/wvJZNp8Cfl
Besides the illness’ physical and emotional impact, one of the critical issues facing people with epilepsy is unemployment.
Recent reports have shown that just 30% of working-age Australians with epilepsy are in full-time employment, around half the figure for the general Australian working population. A further 17% of adults with epilepsy work part-time, compared to 31% for the rest of Australia’s workforce.
"Unfortunately, getting into and staying in the workforce is not always easy and for people with epilepsy barriers continue to make it difficult to obtain, and hold on to a job,” a report from Epilepsy Australia states. “One of these barriers is a lack of information and understanding. Surveys indicate that employers and co-workers have little understanding of epilepsy and express attitudes of anxiety towards epilepsy in the workplace.”
Unsurprisingly, unemployed people are considerably more likely in Australia to live below the relative poverty line.
According to the Guardian, 55% of individuals on Australia’s unemployed income support payment Newstart live in poverty. The $279.50 a week payment for singles with no children leaves people unable to afford essential living costs and has not been increased in real terms in a quarter of a century.
Around 142,000 Australians are expected to suffer from epilepsy by July 2020.
Despite being the nation’s “second most burdensome neurological disease”, research into the illness has long been under-funded.
However, last year, the Australian Government announced $20 million would be provided to the Epilepsy Smart Australia Program over four years — part of which will go toward “helping workforces understand epilepsy and appropriately responding to the needs of workers” living with the condition.