Health of young people with autism during transition to adulthood


Over the transition period, we aimed to investigate general health status of youth with autism, with and without intellectual disabilities, and demographic associations with general health status.

What we did:

The National Longitudinal Transitions Study-2 includes a nationally representative sample of youth receiving special education services aged 13-17 years at wave 1, followed up over 10 years in five waves of data collection. Parent-reported data identified individuals with autism and their general health status. We conducted random-effects ordered logistic regressions to determine the odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) of wave, age, sex, ethnicity, additional intellectual disabilities, parental/guardian relationship status and household income being associated with general health status in youth with autism.

What we found:

At wave 1, data on whether young people had a record of autism were available on 9,008/9,576 (94.1%) individuals, and 1,019/9,008 (11.3%) of them had autism. Across waves, only between 74.3%-69.9% had excellent/very good health (71.7%-58.8% in those with additional

intellectual disabilities), but wave was not associated with general health status. Associations were for age OR=1.18 (1.04, 1.33), additional intellectual disabilities OR=1.56 (1.00, 2.44) and household income OR=0.61 (0.40, 0.94) at $30,001-$50,000, OR=0.44 (0.27, 0.72) at $50,001-$70,000, and OR=0.34 (0.20, 0.56) at $70,001+. Sex, ethnicity, and parental/guardian relationship status were not associated with general health status.

What these findings mean:

There was little change in general health status longitudinally across the transitional period in youth with autism. However, youth with autism need health planning across this period given the low proportion with excellent/very good health, and changes from child to adult services and support provision, including consideration of their household circumstances. Lack of other longitudinal studies indicates a need for more research.

The original article for this study General health status of youth with autism with and without intellectual disabilities transitioning from special education, and its relationship to personal and family circumstances: longitudinal cohort study by Ewelina Rydzewska,Michael Fleming,Daniel Mackay,Genevieve Young-Southward,Jan Blacher,Yasamin Ross Bolourian,Keith Widaman & Sally-Ann Cooper is available online via  the International Journal of Developmental Disabilities. 

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Page updated 31st August 2021.