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Autism prevalence plateaus among children, adolescents

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Autism prevalence plateaus among children, adolescents


There was no significant increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children and adolescents between 2014 and 2016, according to data recently published in JAMA.

“Previous surveys have reported a steady increase in ASD prevalence in U.S. children over the past 2 decades,” Guifeng Xu, MD, of the department of epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, and colleagues wrote.

Researchers analyzed results from 30,502 National Health Interview Survey participants aged 3 to 17 years and found:

  • The weighted prevalence of ASD was 2.41% (95% CI, 2.17-2.65);
  • In 2014, the prevalence of ASD was 2.24% (95% CI, 1.89-2.59); in 2015 the prevalence was 2.41% (95% CI, 1.98-2.84); in 2016 prevalence was 2.58% (95% CI, 2.14-3.01) (P for trend = .23);
  • The prevalence of ASD was 1.22% (95% CI, 0.98-1.47) in girls and 3.54% (95% CI, 3.14-3.95) in boys; and
  • The prevalence of ASD was 2.71% (95% CI, 2.36-3.05) in non-Hispanic white children and teenagers; 2.36% (95% CI, 1.66-3.07) in non-Hispanic black children and teenagers; and 1.78% (95% CI, 1.41-2.15) in Hispanic children and teenagers.

“Changes in nonetiologic factors (such as diagnostic criteria, public awareness and referral), as well as in etiologic factors (including genetic and environmental risk factors), have been postulated to account for the previously observed increase in ASD prevalence,” Xu and colleagues wrote. “Continued monitoring of the prevalence and investigation of changes in risk factors are warranted.”

Researchers acknowledged their findings were higher than the most recent estimate from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Network, but attributed some of those differences to participant characteristics and in study design.

The data recently published in JAMA is one of the latest findings regarding autism. As a service to its readers, Healio Family Medicine compiled a list of several other recent studies highlighting research on autism. – by Janel Miller

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Birth spacing was linked to a child’s increased risk for autism, according to findings recently published in Autism Research.

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Female children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are more likely to have younger siblings also diagnosed with the disorder, with higher rates observed in younger male siblings regardless of the older sibling’s sex, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. 

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