A large study conducted by researchers at the Sweden’s Karolinska Institute has pointed out some troubling statistics. Some people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have their lives cut by 30 years compared to those without.
ASD manifests itself in a wide variety of ways. It is still not well understood, but people who have it may have trouble socializing or communicating. They may find some stimuli overwhelming or change in routines hard to cope with. Some with ASD have intellectual disabilities and seizures.
The study that the Swedish researchers carried out involved 27000 plus people who had been diagnosed with the disorder. They had 2.6 million others who were not affected by it. They found that as they followed them for eight years and recorded deaths and causes of deaths during that time, that those diagnosed with ASD were 2.5 times more likely to die than their age matched controls.
The researchers concluded that those with ASD were likely to die 18 years earlier than their healthy counterparts. Those with intellectual challenges were likely to die 30 years earlier than a healthy person. Those with severe epilepsy fell into this category. Another leading cause of early death was suicide.
In recent years, children are being diagnosed with ASD at earlier ages. With early intervention, many children can learn to cope with regular human interactions. A famous person with ASD is Temple Grandin who has emerged as an expert on animal behavior.
In the US approximately one in every 68 children shows signs of ASD. The incidence is five times as frequent in boys. New brain research is pointing to the action of testosterone produced by the male fetus on the developing brain. A Danish study in 2014 sampled amniotic fluid of more than 300 boys and found that those who exhibited signs of ASD were higher in testosterone levels than those who did not.
It’s early days yet in dealing with this syndrome but the developing science of epigenetics is leading investigators down some interesting pathways.
British Journal of Psychiatry
Medical News Today
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