New Study Shows Increased Health Vulnerability for Autistic People
A recent study published in the journal Molecular Austism has revealed concerning findings regarding the physical health of autistic adults. The study, led by a team from the Cambridge Autism Research Centre, indicates that individuals with autism are at a significantly higher risk of developing a wide range of health conditions compared to their non-autistic counterparts.
According to the study’s lead researcher, Elizabeth Weir, the research emphasizes the greater health vulnerability of autistic people in both the types and number of conditions they may have. The findings challenge previous beliefs about the specific health conditions commonly associated with autism, such as gastrointestinal pain, sleep problems, and epilepsy. The new research suggests that the range of health vulnerabilities for autistic individuals is much more diverse than previously thought.
The study surveyed over 1,100 autistic individuals and 1,100 non-autistic individuals, assessing the risk of 60 physical health conditions across different organ systems. The results showed that autistic people were more likely to be diagnosed with medical conditions in all nine organ systems analyzed. They also had higher rates of 33 specific conditions when compared to their non-autistic peers, including celiac disease, endometriosis, vertigo, urinary incontinence, and iron deficiency anemia.
The study also identified a higher prevalence of central sensitivity syndromes, such as irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome, among autistic individuals. Additionally, the research highlighted the increased risk of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) among autistic women, a group of disorders that affects connective tissues and causes a range of symptoms including joint hypermobility, pain, and fatigue.
The findings from this study underscore the urgent need for the re-evaluation of current healthcare systems to better support the complex health needs of autistic individuals. Researchers emphasized the importance of early identification and monitoring of chronic diseases among autistic individuals.
The study’s application of network analysis, a technique used to understand the relationships between different parts of a system, further demonstrated that combinations of frequently co-occurring medical conditions may be different between autistic and non-autistic adults. This novel approach to understanding the complex health needs of autistic individuals provides valuable insights for future research and healthcare practices.
The study’s team hopes that their findings will lead to improved support and healthcare initiatives for autistic individuals, addressing both their mental and physical health needs. The research provides a critical contribution to understanding the unique health risks experienced by individuals with autism and the necessary steps to provide comprehensive care.