Friday, June 3, 2011

Study Watch : Autism Prevalence in Utah Increases Again

Yet another prevalence study, this time from the state of Utah.  Researchers are estimating that the administrative prevalence of autism in eight year olds increased (cough) only 100% between 2002 and 2008 to 1 in 77 children.  That is up from the the 1 in 133 that was found in 2002 which was itself a 20 fold (1900%) increase from the prior estimate in the eighties.  At the time, the 2002 number was called an "urgent public health concern".

Since this data point is already 3 years old, I have to wonder how much our "awareness" has increased the number since then.  If it has continued to grow at the same rate that would put it at about 1 in 50 today.

It is a good thing that autism isn't becoming more common because otherwise I might have to start worrying.

There is a short post about this study over at Questioning Answers if you are interested.

Changes in the Administrative Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders: Contribution of Special Education and Health from 2002-2008.
Pinborough-Zimmerman J, Bakian AV, Fombonne E, Bilder D, Taylor J, McMahon WM.

University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

This study examined changes in the administrative prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Utah children from 2002 to 2008 by record source (school and health), age (four, six, and eight), and special education classification. Prevalence increased 100% with 1 in 77 children aged eight identified with ASD by 2008. Across study years and age groups rates were higher when health and school data were combined with a greater proportion of cases ascertained from health. The proportion of children with both a health ASD diagnosis and a special education autism classification did not significantly change. Most children with an ASD health diagnosis did not have an autism special education classification. Findings highlight the growing health and educational impact of ASD.

PMID: 21538173


  1. Yes, I'm just glad they are better at diagnosis this. To think for the last millenium we had 1 in 77 folks running around with autism and nobody knew it!

  2. You forgot the new historical benchmark set by Korea. There have been 1 in 38 people running around with autism for the last millennium and no one knew it....

  3. Hi MJ -

    It is a good thing that autism isn't becoming more common because otherwise I might have to start worrying


    Korea and Utah both have a common researcher, Eric Fombonne. Even worse, Mr. Fombonne was a researcher on another paper released this year from Brazil that found a microscopic .3% prevalance!

    This should only present a problem if you try to compare the studies against one another.

    - pD

  4. Hi pD,

    I saw your recent post on the subject of prevalence and I thought you made some good points. Although, I think that both the UK and Korea numbers are vast over extrapolations that are close to meaningless. But when you put them together it does paint an interesting picture.

    I keep intending to compile a complete set of Fombonne's prevalence papers along with his "explanation" of the increases he keeps finding. It seems to me that he keeps using the same reasons to explain away the ever increasing numbers he finds.