Life Expectancy And Autism

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Life Expectancy And Autism

These numbers do not look good:

A study out of Sweden completed late last year revealed that people with autism died an average of 16 years earlier than those without the condition.


Between 1987 and 2009 scientists from the Karolinska Institute looked at more than 27,000 people in Sweden diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This group was compared with a group of 2.6 million people without ASD.

During that time, less than 1 percent of the general population died. The mortality rate for the group with ASD was 2.5 percent.


What the researchers also discovered was that average life expectancy for the general population was about 70 years old. In the ASD group, the average age was about 54.

Perhaps more startling, people with ASD that also had cognitive disabilities had an average life expectancy just under 40 years old.


Previous studies had shown that 30 percent to 50 percent of people with ASD have considered suicide, according to a report issued last week by the nonprofit organization Autistica.

The suicide rate is higher among girls with ASD and people with milder forms of the condition.


Isn't that true of most major health conditions? I'm not saying that to deny how serious this is, but I've read similar shortened life expectancies among several other conditions that are not immediately lethal.

Mr. Magoo

Is suicide the primary reason for the discrepancy in life expectancy, or is there something else (either known or unknown)?


Suicide, heart disease brought on by stress, and difficulty communicating with medical professionals are the major culprits.


According to the executive summary in the report, autistic people with a learning disability are 40 times more likely to die of a neurological condition, with epilepsy being the major condition.  For those without a learning disability, they are 9 times more likely to die by suicide.

Sean in Ottawa

I do not have any statistics to back this up -- however, I would guess that those with autism probably have lower incomes with many unable to find work. Lower incomes lead to lower life spans. This we already know.

Again, I do not challenge the notion that there can be something medical in the statistics but when it comes to any disability and life span statistics, you usually have to factor in poverty --sadly.

People with lower incomes also have lower quality of healthcare -- part of it is lower ability to advocate, difficulty affording prescriptions, traveling to doctors, etc. That is in addition to less healthy lives and higher stress. Apart from the diagnosis itself.