Early Autism Deaths Prompts Calls for Investigation

Research into autism indicates that sufferers from the condition are dying many decades earlier than the average person, leading scientists to call for an immediate investigation into this unfortunate phenomenon.

There are no physical reasons why sufferers of autism should be suffering a reduced life expectancy, so scientists wish to understand the factors contributing to this problem.

Bullying, social issues and side effects from medication have all been suggested as possible causes, and autism charity Autistica is launching a five-year £10 million research programme to investigate why autistic adults with autism die young; some 30 years earlier than expected.

Sweden’s Karolinska Institute conducted the research in question, and found that autistic people are far more likely to commit suicide.

The institute believes that there is nothing short of a moral imperative to understand the issue more holistically, and Chief Executive Jon Spiers describes the existing situation as extremely serious.

“This new research confirms the true scale of the hidden mortality crisis in autism. 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. Everyone involved in supporting people on the autism spectrum from the Government right down to local care providers has a responsibility to step up and start saving lives as soon as possible.”

Bullying is believed to be a major problem for those suffering with autism, and this could be potentially evidenced by the rise in suicide cases.

There could also be problems with autism sufferers failing to communicate the symptoms of depression, and thus being undiagnosed.

“There is no single issue that is causing these huge rates of premature death. It could be social factors, biological factors as we know more people with autism are prone to mental health problems and epilepsy. It really needs an enormous research effort. Mortality in autism was not known as a significant problem until now,” Spiers added.

27,000 people with autism where analysed in the research, with the test subjects being compared with over three-million control group individuals who were non-autistic.

And it was discovered that adult autism sufferers died a staggering 16 years younger than similar members of the general population.

Incredibly, those also suffering from a learning disability were prone to die more than 30 years prematurely than the general population, at an age of just 39.

Autistic people who were not held back intellectually died 12 years early, and even “high-functioning” individuals with good speech and language skills had double the normal risk of dying young.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said: “While this report is based on Swedish research, we have no reason to believe the situation would be that different here. Indeed, we fear it could be worse. The Government and national health authorities must urgently investigate what’s going on in this country and start to put things right.”

Although precise figures are not available due to the nature of the condition, it is believed that in excess of 700,000 people in the UK currently have autism, and the condition already costs the UK in excess of £32 billion annually.


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