Swedish researchers found that people on the autism spectrum are more likely to die earlier than people not affected by the condition. Autistica, the charity that disclosed the findings, reported that most deaths occur through epilepsy or suicide.
According to the study, people affected by the autism spectrum disorder die on average 16 years earlier. The group, which deemed the situation an ‘enormous hidden crisis,’ now seeks to raise funds for follow-up research on the issue.
The Swedish study involved about 27,000 adults diagnosed with autism and a control group of 2.7 million people.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, also learned that ASD patients affected by an associated learning disability died three decades earlier than members of the control group. These patients’ average age of death was 39, and their main cause was epileptic seizures.
It is still unclear why people with autism are affected by epilepsy. This is partially why Autistica plans new research for the next five years.
Moreover, Swedish researchers found that autistic adults with no learning disability died 12 years before their time, at the average age of 58. In these people, heart disease and suicide were the main two causes of premature death.
Tatja Hirvikoski, lead author of the study, deemed the study results “shocking and disheartening.” Plus, the new research revealed that autistic adults can rarely find a full-time job, so the income inequality in this particular group of population is “shameful,” as study authors put it.
According to the research, only 15 percent of ASD patients are employed full-time, while nearly 25 percent are affected by impaired speech in various degrees. Furthermore, three-quarters of autistic adults are affected by a mental health disorder, and 40 percent are affected by two.
Autistica is now urging the British government to fund a comprehensive review of mortality rates in autistic population nationwide. Mark Lever of the U.K.-based National Autistic Society believes that the situation may be even worse in England.
The country’s Department of Health pledged that it would help people on the spectrum with their careers by asking employers to make adjustments for the condition.
The study was recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.
According to the Autism Society, 1 percent of global population currently lives with the condition. In the U.S., 1 in 68 births has the disorder. As of 2014, 3.5 million Americans were diagnosed with autism, but the condition may be severely under diagnosed.
Image Source: Wikimedia