Autism rates aren’t actually increasing

Sep 9, 2014

By Julia Belluz


If you were to believe newspaper reports and anecdotal evidence about autism, you probably think rates of the disorder are exploding around the world.

But a new study — the most extensive review of the data on the global prevalence and incidence of autism, published in the journal Psychological Medicine — actually found rates have remained unchanged since 1990.

“This study drew together research findings on autism spectrum disorders conducted across the world over the past 20 years,” says study lead Amanda Baxter.

7.5 per 1,000 had autism in 1990; 7.6 per 1,000 had it in 2010

Studies using different methods and sample sizes reported a range of prevalence estimates, though few actually reported an increase. When Baxter and her co-authors adjusted for differences in the study methods and synthesized the results, they found no evidence for a growth in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders over time and little regional variation.

7 comments on “Autism rates aren’t actually increasing

  • I have to admit to having fears about vaccines initially. This was because each of my kids developed a high temperature after the event, and I saw that as being potentially dangerous. When I was put to the wise about taking paracetamol just before the injection, I felt a lot happier. My excuse was that I was inordinately mindful of possible dangers regarding young children.
    Today I’m well aware of the truth of the situation, but I can understand the thinking of younger parents and their overwealming desire to do the right thing by their children. The parent education program needs to be vigorous in its approach.

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  • Why would that be, Fred? You wouldn’t want to take a corticosteroid before a vaccination (and you certainly wouldn’t want to take a paracetamol before or after a vaccination if you were a cat) but why not paracetamol? In the veterinary world we occasionally give ‘vaccine reactors’ non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as meloxicam before a vaccine is given (different drug to paracetamol I know) but it’s not considered risky.

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  • The latest DSM-5 of American Psychiatric Association folds all subcategories into one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is now defined by two categories:
    1. Impaired social communication and/or 2. Interaction and restricted and/or repetitive behaviors. Did the researchers of the subject study took this new diagnostic criteria into consideration?

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  • As I understand it, It’s not dangerous to paracetamol after a vaccine by itself, but it reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine.

    So unless your child has a high fever, it’s better to avoid it. A slight fever isn’t harmful though.

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