A Silent Killer
Something is taking the lives of people with autism. It is not heart disease, stroke or cancer. Yet it is taking lives 12-30 years earlier than might be expected. It is suicide.
The main killers in the general population are the expected diseases mentioned above. But when it comes to adults with autism, these expectations do not apply. A recent article in the Journal of Psychiatry reports that the leading cause of death among adults with autism is suicide. Researchers studied 27,000 adults with the disorder and 2.5 million people without the disorder. Based on data in the Sweden’s national registry, on average, adults with autism die 18 years sooner than those without autism.
Those on the spectrum with the old diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome had double the risk of dying young than did others on the spectrum. The overall trends were similar for both genders.
Researchers believe these new data confirm a true scale of the hidden mortality of the disorder. Many of these suicides occur before individuals reach their 40th birthdays. Naturally, researchers wanted to know why.
There are many correlations between autism and other disorders. And there are also some natural manifestations of the disorder. In the Swedish analysis co-morbidity existed between autism, epilepsy, mood disorder and anxiety disorder in 40% of the cases reviewed. As a result individuals with autism frequently take more prescriptive drugs than the typical population. Additionally, the disorder itself is known for a certain amount of rigidity. Eating patterns may be limited and there is social isolation common among most people who commit suicide.
The data also show that adults with autism and a learning disability are over nine times more likely to commit suicide. This rate is extremely high but not inconsistent with previous research that estimates 30 to 50 percent of people with autism have considered committing suicide.
Early research seems to indicate that these issues begin in childhood with feelings that show a great lack of self worth and that 14% of these children think about suicide, while only .5 % of typically developing children do. The Center for Disease Control in the U.S. estimated in 2014 that 1 in 68 children have the disorder.
If we are thinking this is a health issue that begins in childhood with a lack of self worth, maybe we need to be re-thinking all of this inclusion of these youngsters with other kids who are not ready to manage the disorder among their peers. And then there are the chronological peers who do not know how to respond or befriend children with autism. It is not always a wonderful thing to be included with people you perceive as being "better" than you are in some way. Things to think about.⨪