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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13 Comments Moderation Policy

  1. Anonee says:

    I often don’t recognize when I am hungry or have to use the restroom. How can I recognize the symptoms of a heart attack or stroke if I feel pain and sensations differently?

  2. Noreen Albright says:

    I feel this article is wrong. I would say their lives are cut shorter due to: 1. Drowning (as in toddlers) 2. accidents (falling from balcony/window/runover) due to low safety awareness 3. asthma

    • Noreen, the research tells us otherwise. The Finnish team that did this research presented compelling evidence at the Autism Europe Conference in 2016 to support their findings.

  3. Janae Linder says:

    I too suffer from autism, and I get sensory overload that I sometimes shutdown. I was never accepted for who I am as a kid growing up. I now suffer from what I believe to be ptsd caused by drs mistreatment. It’s left be disillusioned and distrustful towards others.

  4. Tina lekavich says:

    I. Lost my daughter last march. I believe she died due to her epilepsy. She was only 31. If you know of a. Grief support group could you let me know.

    • Dear Tina,

      I am so sorry for your heartbreaking loss. Could you let me know what area of the world you live in (city and country) I will see what I can find out for you? I really want to help you if I can.

  5. Meggie says:

    I had my first heart attack in 2016. Odds aren’t looking great for me

  6. Anne says:

    It sounds like stress he may just need complete bed rest for a while hope he improves soon….

  7. Vanessa Flores says:

    Hello. My Godson with autism had a heart attack in school. When the paramedics arrived he was flat lined and they brought him back but he is now in the hospital with his brain inflamed and  they have no idea what caused the heart failure. Of course the brain inflammation is due to no oxygen to his little brain. He has been in the Long Beach Children’s hospital 3 weeks now and he has to be sedated to calm down and not  move so much. Doctors claim he can’t see anything but we see he opens his eyes but is too tired and just keeps them closed. He has had a fever all week now and they say they can’t give him antibiotics because they don’t know what is causing the fever. Everything has been checked for any infection and nothing. They discarded its associated with Autism but is it really? Has anyone heard of anything like this before? Please anyone??

  8. Bindi says:

    person with autism are at greater risk of heart related problems and cancer , epilepsy as i learned about autism in classroom setting. Person with epilepsy can be managed with medication, observing warning signs. I came to know about one new thing that suicide is leading cause of early death in autism and w e have to identify suicide risks and take preventive measures. furthermore, clinical guidelines for suicide patients helps to reduce suicide risks. Thank you for sharing your information.

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