Research reveals that people with autism face a significantly higher risk of premature death, but is anybody doing anything about it?
A 2015 study has shown that people with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, die significantly earlier than the general population, prompting calls for an increase in funding for autism research.
According to a report from the BBC, the charity Autistica cited research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry to call for nearly $15 million for research into the phenomenon.
The study was carried out by researchers in Sweden at the Karolinska Institue, who examined health records from 27,000 autistic adults. Comparing them with records from 2.5 million people from the general population, they uncovered a shocking reality – people on the autism spectrum died more than 30 years earlier than the average person.
The average age of death for people with autism in the study was just 39. The records indicated that the leading cause of death was epilepsy. Researchers still don’t have a solid lead on the link between autism and deaths caused by epilepsy, and the charity has called for an increase in funding to investigate.
The chief executive of Autistica, John Spiers, said that the disparity between mortality rates between people with ASD was “shameful.” ASD affects different people in different ways, and science’s understanding of the disorder is woefully inadequate to promptly address such a statistic.
For example, roughly 25 percent of people with ASD have significant trouble speaking, and only 15 percent maintain full-time employment. The charity stated that nearly three-quarters of people have nearly one associated mental health condition, while 40 percent have two.
Autism research has come a long way in recent years, but the 2015 study highlights the fact that not nearly enough has been done to understand and address the disorder.
“There’s a very clear connection between ASD without intellectual disability and a raised suicide risk,” says Dr Tatja Hirvikoski, the study’s lead author. “Clinical guidelines for suicidal patients must be followed when dealing with people with ASD.”
A press release describing the details of the 2015 study can be found here.