Census 2011: People with Autism


People with autism identified through Scotland’s 2011 Census

 

Background

Scotland’s Census is the official estimate of people and households in Scotland. The information about the Scottish population is collected every 10 years. The 2011 Census information was gathered on 27 March 2011. Amongst many other characteristics, the Census dataset describes how many men and women live in Scotland, of what age they are, and how they rate their health.

For the first time in 2011, the Census questionnaire also included a question on long-term health conditions, which at the time of data collection had lasted, or were expected to last, at least 12 months. These conditions included a range of impairments and difficulties, and developmental disorder (e.g. autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s syndrome) was also listed.

Aims and Objectives

No whole-country population studies have previously reported on general health status and comorbid health conditions in the population of people with autism. The aim of this study was to investigate 1) general health status, and 2) prevalence of health comorbidities and their relationship with age and gender in a whole country population of people with and without autism in Scotland.

Methods

The data source was Scotland’s 2011 Census. We investigated the general health ratings in  people with and without autism, and the extent of health comorbidities, including intellectual disabilities and mental health conditions. We also calculated odds ratios (OR: 95% confidence intervals) of autism predicting poor (fair, bad, or very bad) general health and health comorbidities, adjusted for age and gender. We then calculated odds ratios for age and gender in predicting poor general health and health comorbidities within the autism sample.

Results

25,063/1,548,819 (1.6%) children and young people aged 0-24 are known to have autism in Scotland. There were 19,880 (79.3%) males and 5,183 (20.7%) females with autism. 21.9% of children and young people with autism, and 1.9% without autism reported poor health. Children and young people with autism were 11 times more likely to report poor general health, 50 times more likely to report intellectual disabilities and 16 times more likely to report mental health conditions.

6,649/3,746,584 (0.2%) adults aged 25+ are known to have autism in Scotland. There were 4,610 (69.3%) males and 2,039 (30.7%) females with autism. 46.8% of adults with autism, and 23.7% without autism reported poor health. Adults with autism were 5 times more likely to report poor general health, 95 times more likely to report intellectual disabilities and 9 times more likely to report mental health conditions.

Conclusions

People of all ages with autism have poorer general health and report more health problems than their peers without autism. Existing evidence is limited, yet very much needed. It is important to have accurate information on general health of the population with autism in order to accurately plan for appropriate prevention and intervention measures.

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Page updated 1 May 2018