While autism is in no way a laughing matter, people seem to be really underestimating the seriousness of the condition. They’re underestimating it so much so that it actually became a sort of meme on the internet, with people going “autism intensifies” when someone is presenting any type of weird or introverted behavior.
This speaks volumes about the levels of misinformation pertaining to the condition, and is a strong indicator that awareness has to be raised regarding autism. And even though it was already hell to live with for both the sufferers and their parents, a new study from Sweden and the UK revealed that autistic people die much younger.
There are two primary causes of death for these unfortunate people, each one associated with a different form of the condition and with a far timelier death. The study was funded by the autism research charity Autistica in order to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorders.
On average, people suffering from the form of autism that comes with intellectual disability die as much as 30 years sooner than the average, with seizures and epilepsy as the leading cause of death. Meanwhile, those with autism spectrum disorders and no intellectual disabilities die on average 12 years earlier, with suicide as the main cause of death.
According to the Chief Executive of Autistica, Jon Spiers, both the government and individual care providers should step up their game in order to save more lives. He also said that
The inequality in outcomes for autistic people shown in this data is shameful. We cannot accept a situation where many autistic people will never see their 40th birthday.
One of the authors, Dr. Tatja Hirvikoski from the Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, performed a meta-analysis on the data of 27,000 autistic people and 2.7 million healthy adults used as a control sample. The data was collected from a huge national epidemiological study.
The risk of autistic people with learning disabilities to die of epilepsy and seizures is forty times higher than for regular people, and the chance of committing suicide for autistic people without learning disabilities is nine times higher than for the general population, with women particularly at risk.
According to Steve Silberman, author of Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity,
This is dramatic proof that bullying, lack of support, inadequate health care across the lifespan, insufficient allocation of resources to create options for housing and employment, and a failure to aggressively pursue research into better treatments for chronic anxiety and seizures come at a terrible cost.
Just in the United Kingdom, the yearly cost of autism is $46 billion, and about 700,000 people, about one percent of the population, suffers from autism spectrum disorders.
Image source: Wikimedia