The estimated prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among children and adolescents in the United States was 3.14% in 2019 and 2020 overall, according to a research letter published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The prevalence of ASD is increasing globally. The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network reported the prevalence of ASD among children aged 8 years was 2.30% in 2018. The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of ASD among youths in the US in 2019 and 2020.
Researchers utilized National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) data from household interviews for 2019 and 2020. A parent or guardian reported ASD diagnosis from a physician or professional. The response rate was roughly 91% in 2019 and 87% in 2020. The researchers weighted the prevalence among youths in the US aged 3 to 17 years for both years based on NHIS guidelines. The researchers reviewed prevalence trends from 2014 to 2020.
In 2019 and 2020, 410 out of the 12,554 children aged 3 to 17 years included in the survey had been diagnosed with ASD. The prevalence of ASD was 2.79% in 2019 and 3.49% in 2020. The overall prevalence rate was 3.14%.
Compared with girls, boys had a higher prevalence for ASD (4.64% vs 1.56%; P<.001). According to the income-to-poverty ratio, a higher incidence for ASD was also found among families in poverty (<1.00 (reference): 4.89%; 1.00 to 1.99: 2.71%; 2.00 to 3.99: 3.20%; and ≥4.00: 2.45%).
The overall weighted prevalence of ASD increased from 2.24% in 2014 to 3.49% in 2020.
The researchers said the 3.14% prevalence rate of 2019 and 2020 exceeded several other prevalence reports from past years, both in the US (National Survey of Children’s Health in 2016, 2.50%) and in other areas of the world.
Study limitations include a possible recall bias of guardians and parents.
“Given that ASD is a lifelong disease in most children, future research needs to focus on understanding risk factors for and causes of ASD,” the researchers concluded.
Li Q, Li Y, Liu B, et al. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children and adolescents in the United States from 2019 to 2020. JAMA Pediatr. Published online July 5, 2022. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.1846