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Age at identification, prevalence and general health of children with autism: Observational study of a whole country population

Journal article
Authors E. Rydzewska
L. A. Hughes-McCormack
Christopher Gillberg
A. Henderson
C. MacIntyre
J. Rintoul
S. A. Cooper
Published in Bmj Open
Volume 9
Issue 7
ISSN 2044-6055
Publication year 2019
Published at Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre
Language en
Keywords autism, children, general health, prevalence, young people
Subject categories Psychiatry


Objectives: Reported childhood prevalence of autism varies considerably between studies and over time, and general health status has been little investigated. We aimed to investigate contemporary prevalence of reported autism by age, and general health status of children/young people with and without autism. Design: Secondary analysis of Scotland's Census, 2011 data. Cross-sectional study. Setting: General population of Scotland. Participants: All children (n=916 331) and young people (n=632 488) in Scotland. Main outcome measures: Number (%) of children/young people reported to have autism and their general health status; prevalence of autism; prevalence of poor health (fair, bad and very bad health); odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) of autism predicting poor health, adjusted for age and gender and OR for age and gender in predicting poor health within the population with reported autism. Results: Autism was reported for 17 348/916 331 (1.9%) children aged 0-15, and 7715/632 488 (1.2%) young people aged 16-24. The rate increased to age 11 in boys and age 10 in girls, reflecting age at diagnosis. Prevalence was 2.8% at age 10 (4.4% for boys; 1.1% for girls), and 2.9% at age 11 (4.5% for boys; 1.1% for girls). 22.0% of children and 25.5% of young people with autism reported poor health, compared with 2.0% and 4.4% without autism. Autism had OR=11.3 (11.0 to 11.7) in predicting poor health. Autistic females had poorer health than autistic males, OR=1.6 (1.5 to 1.8). Conclusion: Accurate information on the proportion of autistic children and their health status is essential plan appropriate prevention and intervention measures and provide resources for those who may put demand on services designed for autistic people. © 2019 Author(s).

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