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With a growing number of forcibly displaced people (FDP) globally, the focus on their medical needs has necessarily increased. Studies about the prevalence and incidence of epilepsy and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) in this population are, though, sparse. This Review highlights the importance of exploring and managing both conditions in these vulnerable people to promote global health. We performed an exhaustive review of 10 databases, as well as a manual search of relevant websites related to global health and refugee-related organizations. We analyzed data related to the prevalence and incidence of epilepsy and PNES; health visits; costs of medical care and challenges faced by healthcare workers in relation to FDP with these conditions. Fifty six papers met our inclusion criteria. Of these, 53 reported directly or indirectly on the prevalence of epilepsy and its costs in FDP. Two articles reported on the prevalence of PNES in forcibly displaced people. The reported prevalence of epilepsy in FDP varied from 0.2% to 39.13%, being highest in people with pre-existing neurological or psychiatric comorbidities. Only one study reported on the incidence of epilepsy in internally displaced children. Data from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) have identified a tendency to higher incidence of epilepsy in children following wars. While within displaced women without a history of sexual violence the rate of PNES was 16.7%, in FDP women with such a history the rate of PNES was 43.7% (p=0.02). The healthcare costs for epilepsy can be high, with recurrent health visits related to seizures being the most common cause of health encounters in refugee camps. Increasing awareness and further studies of multicultural aspects to improve shared understanding of seizure phenomenon in vulnerable displaced populations would seem crucial.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





128 - 148


Asylum seeker, Dissociative seizures, Forced migration, Non-epileptic attacks, Refugee