Alla Katsnelson writing for Spectrum News reports that the rising prevalence of autism shows no sign of leveling off, according to a new study that accounts for every diagnosis made in Denmark over 32 years.
That may be in part because more adolescents and adults are being diagnosed with the condition than before, the researchers report. The results were published today in JAMA.
“We don’t see any evidence that the prevalence increase is plateauing or stabilizing,” says Diana Schendel, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Aarhus University in Denmark, who led the work. The findings highlight the need to expand support and services for adults with the condition, she says.
The study found an autism prevalence of 1.65 percent in 10-year-olds in Denmark in 2016. This broadly matches estimates from studies in the United States. However, the researchers tracked people into adulthood and found that autism prevalence seems to increase with age.
“This may be one of the first, if not the first, times that we’ve actually followed persons into adulthood” in a large-scale study to estimate prevalence at different ages, Schendel says. “I think the greater recognition of autism is catching up to these older individuals.”
Some experts question whether the prevalence in adulthood is as high as the study claims, however; that estimate seems much higher than what clinicians see, they say.
Diana Schendel, professor of psychiatric epidemiology