The Three Main Causes Of Early Death In Autism
A new study from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden recently published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, revealed that the risk of premature death is about 2.5 times higher for people with autism spectrum disorder than for the rest of the population. The mean age of death for someone with autism is 54 compared with 70 for the general population. For people with autism and a learning disability, the mean age drops to 40.
Three Main Causes Of Early Death in Autism
#1 Epilepsy: For those with autism and a learning disability, epilepsy is the leading cause of premature death. The Epilepsy Society has started an “Avoidable Deaths” campaign and sites a major national clinical audit that found that 39% of deaths from epilepsy could have been avoided. Prevention measures include: prevention and control with lifestyle changes and medications, knowledge and education of those around you so they can help minimize risk during and after a seizure, and seizure management and preparation if you have any warning signs like halos etc…
#2 Suicide: Sadly, for those who don’t have a learning disability, the leading cause of early death is suicide. Dr. Hirvikoski, lead researcher of this study, says we need to promote further research in this long-neglected field. She also emphasizes that “we do not need to wait” to act on the findings: her clinic has already taken steps to identify suicide risks and take preventive measures. Dr. Hirvakoski says that for patients with ASD who don’t have a learning disability, “clinical guidelines for suicidal patients must be followed”.
#3 Heart Problems and Cancer: People with autism are also are a greater risk for heart problems and cancers. There is already a strong link between epilepsy and heart disease, but as yet no research has suggested that the same link applies to ASD. It is still not clear if people with autism are more susceptible to these illnesses, or if there is a lack of awareness of these problems among health professionals resulting in delays and inadequacies in diagnosis and treatment.
Altogether this study has highlighted that we still need to learn so much more about ASD in order to insure the best quality of life for our loved ones on the spectrum. John Spiers, the Chief Executive for a national Autism charity in the UK, Autistica, has stated that the foundation is raising 10 million dollars towards looking into this discrepancy. In a perfect summation of this new research he said:
“This new research confirms the true scale of the hidden mortality crisis in autism…The inequality in outcomes for autistic people shown in this data is shameful. We cannot accept a situation where many autistic people will never see their 40th birthday.”
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