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(UK) New autism rate due to "improved recognition"

Mar 29, 2021, Guardian: Autism more common in children in England than previously thought – study

Autism is more common among children in England than previously thought, with rates higher among Black pupils than their white peers, researchers have revealed. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects communication and behaviour and is thought to affect 1-2% of people around the world, with diagnoses more common among males than females. However, there has been little large-scale research into its prevalence, and whether it differs with ethnicity. Now researchers say an analysis of data from more than 7 million schoolchildren in England not only reveals ASD is more common than previously thought, but that there are striking differences in ASD prevalence around the country, and between different groups. “This is the largest prevalence study to date in the world,” said Dr Andres Roman-Urrestarazu of the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and a co-author of the new research. Writing in the journal Jama Pediatrics, Roman-Urrestarazu and colleagues reveal how they analysed data from the 2017 spring school census obtained from the national pupil database in England to determine the prevalence of ASD among schoolchildren aged five to 19 in state-funded schools in England…. The results reveal that 119,821 pupils had ASD, of whom 21,660 had learning difficulties. When adjusted for age, sex and other factors, the team say that equates to 1.76% of schoolchildren in England having ASD – a higher figure than the 1.57% suggested by an earlier, smaller study carried out by the team. The rise, they add, is likely down to improved recognition of ASD. However, prevalence was not uniform. As with previous studies, ASD was found to be more common in boys and men than girls and women, with the study revealing that ASD to be almost four-and-a-half times more common among the former than the latter. But there were geographical differences, with the team finding an ASD prevalence of 3.38% in Solihull compared 0.63% in the Cotswolds, while in some local authorities the male-to-female ratio for ASD was almost 13:1 – a figure Roman-Urrestarazu said suggests some areas might be overlooking autistic women. There were also striking ethnic differences, with ASD most common among Black pupils, of whom 2.11% found to have ASD, and lowest in Roma/Irish Traveller pupils, of whom 0.85% had ASD. Among white pupils, the figure was 1.84%....


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