A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2023 | Number 4, Volume 37

More evidence of elevated rate of health problems in ASD detected by survey

A new study adds to evidence that rates of physical illness are elevated in adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 

John Ward and colleagues analyzed data from an online survey of 2,305 autistic and non-autistic adults The survey asked participants for information about their demographics, autism diagnosis, diet, exercise, sleep, sexual health, substance use, personal medical history, and family medical history. 

The researchers report, “There were significantly elevated rates of non-communicable conditions across all organ systems in autistic people, including gastrointestinal, neurological, endocrine, visual, ear/nose/ throat, skin, liver and kidney, and hematological conditions.” 

The researchers also report that Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a group of connective tissue disorders, was more likely to occur among autistic females compared to nonautistic females. In addition, they detected a higher prevalence of celiac disease among autistic individuals, although this result was non-significant after they accounted for family history. 

They conclude, “Healthcare professionals must be made aware of the range of co-occurring physical health conditions that may be more common among autistic people.” 

The researchers note that their study includes the largest sample to date related to the health status of autistic individuals across the lifespan. They caution, however, that participation in the survey was biased toward females, white individuals, highly educated people, and United Kingdom residents, which may affect their findings.


Citations

“Increased rates of chronic physical health conditions across all organ systems in autistic adolescents and adults,” John H. Ward, Elizabeth Weir, Carrie Allison, and Simon Baron-Cohen, Molecular Autism, September 20, 2023 (free online). Address: Elizabeth Weir, [email protected]