What is the Global Incidence of Autism?

Because ASDs are complex disorders and not diagnosed medically, but rather by an observation of behavior, determining prevalence and incidence of ASDs is not as easy as it may be for other childhood diseases and disorders.  With no clear date of onset and a broadening definition of diagnoses, calculating global autism rates is not as easy as it may sound.

Autism awareness is increasing both nationwide and globally. April 2, 2009, was this year’s World Autism Awareness Day.  As the name implies, an increasing awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders has accompanied what appears to be an increase in diagnoses of ASDs worldwide.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not specifically maintain global statistics on autism prevelance.  However, its 2007 Global Burden of Disease report on neurological and mental disorders did illustrate that mental and neurological disorders have been underestimated because traditional tracking methods focus on mortality, not on disability rates.

The Autism Society of America reports the following autism incidence rates of the estimated number of individuals with autism in 2007:

COUNTRY

China

NUMBER

1,100,000

DATA SOURCE

Peking Health Science Center (estimate based on official 2005 rate of 1.1 in 1000 children affected)

India

2,000,000

Action for Autism India (based on an estimated rate of 1 in 250)

United States

1,500,000

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ADDME Study 2007 and Autism Society of America

United Kingdom

650,000

National Autistic Society 2006 (based on rate of 1 in 100)

Mexico

150,000

Based on estimates by Ministry of Health of 2 to 6 per 1000

Philippines

500,000

Autism Society of Philippines

Thailand

180,000

Estimate of the Minister of Mental Health

Clearly, ASDs do not discriminate based on culture, geography, ethnicity, or socio-economic status, nor does the need for diagnosis, treatment, and intervention.

Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks reports that “Approximately 67 million people are affected by autism around the world, and we believe the solutions will come from a community of science and research without boundaries. The work of Autism Speaks in global science and research is an important path to investigate causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increase international awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocate for the needs of all individuals with autism and their families in our global community.”

Clearly, autism is not just an issue for the United States, but one of global concern as well.

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