A new study has uncovered “clear inequalities” in an individual’s likelihood of receiving an autism diagnosis.
The study, which was published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, found that some areas of the UK had much higher autism diagnoses rates than others, suggesting where you live may have an affect on the likelihood of receiving a diagnosis.
Other factors, such as socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity also appear to play a role.
The researchers from the University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Political Science and Newcastle University analysed data collected from individuals aged 1-18 years old in state-funded schools in England.
Of the 32 million pupils studied, more than 102,000 new autism diagnoses were identified between 2014 and 2017.
After adjusting for age and sex, the researchers found that one in 234 children were given a new autism diagnosis during that four-year period.
A number of ‘hotspots’ were identified, such as the NHS Rotherham catchment area where 45.5% of hospital has higher-than-average new autism diagnoses, NHS Heywood (38.8% higher than average) and NHS Liverpool (36.9% higher than average).
Individuals from a minority ethnic background experiencing economic hardship may be more likely to receive an autism diagnosis
The autism diagnoses rates also appeared to vary by ethnicity and deprivation. For example, the likelihood of receiving an autism diagnosis more than tripled among girls and increased five-fold among boys depending on their ethnicity and social and financial situation, compared to their white peers without financial disadvantages who speak English as their first language.
Dr Robin van Kessel, co-lead researcher from the Department of Health Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science said: “These new findings show how social determinants interact and can combine to significantly increase the likelihood of an autism diagnosis. As a result, individuals from a minority ethnic background experiencing economic hardship may be significantly more likely to receive an autism diagnosis than their peers.”
Lead researcher lDr Andres Roman-Urrestarazu from the Department of Psychiatry and Cambridge Public Health at the University of Cambridge says more work now needs to be done to discover how these social determinants could affect a diagnosis.
She said: “Autism diagnoses are more common among Black students and other minority ethnic groups. Why this is the case is not clear and so we need to explore the role played by social factors such as ethnicity and area deprivation as well as the nature of local services.”