Why Are Autism Cases Increasing?

In recent years, the overall percentage of children diagnosed with Autism has increased. But is this due to a change in how doctors diagnose autism and report the cases, or is there some environmental factor that is affecting autism rates?

A new study in Denmark found that this increase was due to a change in reporting Autism cases. Researchers gathered information from about 678,000 children in Denmark born between 1980 and 1991 and monitored them until they were 22 years old. During that time, 3,956 of the children were diagnosed with Autism with the majority being diagnosed after 1995.The changes in reporting practices happened due to changes in the criteria used to diagnose autism and also due to changes in the way autism cases are recorded in Denmark’s health system. Although the study was conducted in Denmark, the findings also apply to the United States.

The finding “supports the argument that the apparent increase in ASD [autism spectrum disorders] prevalence in Denmark in recent years is in large part attributable to changes in reporting practices over time,” the researchers, from Aarhus University in Denmark, wrote in the November 3rd issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

However, reporting changes are not the only reason for why Autism cases are rising. Previously, children being diagnosed with ASD often had intellectual disabilities and poor verbal skills. However, more recently, less severe cases are being diagnosed which include children without any intellectual problems.

The new findings are not surprising because the prevalence of a medical condition is going to be directly tied to how we define it,” Adesman said. “In the United States, there were changes to the criteria used in making autism diagnoses in both the 1994 and 2013 editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the guidebook for psychiatric conditions.”

In 2000, the number of Autism cases in the US (1 in every 150 children) increased  to 1 in 68 children in 2010,according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is likely due to better means of diagnosing Autism and an overall increase in people affected by the disease.

Previously, the same group of Danish researchers found that, in addition to autism, diagnoses of three other disorders —attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — are increasing at similar rates in Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Western Australia. This suggests that rising awareness of all four disorders is contributing to an increase in diagnoses,” the researchers said.

Read more here – “Autism’s Rise: Researchers Look at Why Cases Are Increasing,” (Rachael Rettner, Fox News).

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Anna is a current student at The George Washington University in Washington, DC with a concentration in Marketing and Communication. She specializes in social media outreach and has experience working in government contracting.

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