Epilepsy Related Deaths

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Unfortunately, a number of people with epilepsy do die each year. In Australia, there are approximately 300 epilepsy- related deaths each year – but this figure is likely to be underestimated. Some of these deaths are due to:


  • accidents
  • drowning
  • status epilepticus
  • suicide

More than half of these deaths are thought to be due to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).

It can be scary to think about the risk of death related to any health condition; however by knowing the risk exists, you can take positive actions to keep yourself or your family member as safe as possible.

Research has shown that many epilepsy deaths are known to be potentially avoidable – which shows there is much that people with epilepsy, their families and their doctors can do to reduce risks.

This section is to help inform you about potential risks, so you can make informed choices about how you manage safety.

Key risk factors for epilepsy related deaths: 

The risk factors below may increase the likelihood of epilepsy related death. They include:

  • frequent or poorly controlled seizures
  • tonic-clonic seizures
  • nocturnal seizures (seizures during sleep) and sleeping alone
  • medication changes
  • not taking medication as prescribed
  • alcohol or substance use
  • depression or psychiatric illness

Research has shown the factors below are also linked to SUDEP:

  • having had epilepsy for over 15 years
  • epilepsy starting at a young age
  • male gender
  • younger adult age

The risk of SUDEP is highest in people with frequent tonic clonic seizures.

Find out more about what steps can be taken to help reduce risk.