Hello, and welcome to Spectrum’s Community Newsletter.
Autism researchers on Twitter pondered questions around autism prevalence this week after two new estimates came out.
Jack Underwood, a clinical research fellow at the University of Cardiff in Wales, posted a thread about new work that found an eightfold increase in autism diagnoses among Welsh women from 2001 to 2016.
Very pleased to say this has now been published (online first) in @journalautism, free and open access. Full thread ????, key findings are a dramatic increase in recorded autism diagnoses from 2001 to 2016, including an 8x increase in women. https://t.co/hZrBlfaCM1 https://t.co/OhgFkrt5qn
— Jack Underwood (@JFGUnderwood) November 30, 2021
In a longer thread, written when the paper was accepted, Underwood broke the findings down: The team reviewed more than 3.6 million people’s medical records across Wales and anonymously identified 0.51 percent with an autism diagnosis. Yearly incidence, they found, had risen steadily throughout the 15 years of data they reviewed.
The jump reflects better public awareness of the condition, he writes, but because the estimates are lower than previous ones based on population sampling or clinical cohorts, diagnoses are clearly still being missed in medical records.
On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released new prevalence figures from its Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Among 8-year-olds across 11 sites, it found an autism prevalence of 1 in 44 children in 2018, up from 1 in 54 in 2016.
David Mandell, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, tweeted about the new numbers — and why they should be treated with “a healthy dose of skepticism.” For one thing, he writes, the numbers are based solely on education and health records, not on clinical assessments.
As they do every 2 years, the CDC has put out its surveillance report on autism in 8-year olds, reporting that the prevalence now is 1 in 44. Let's talk about why we should treat these numbers with a healthy dose of skepticism. https://t.co/Mjtmq77Ytq 1/8
— David Mandell (@DSMandell) December 2, 2021
Jonathan Sebat, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, seconded that view in a retweet, commenting how “CDC estimates of autism ‘prevalence’ reflect services and diagnostic practices but are not great estimates for the actual prevalence of the disorder.”
CDC estimates of autism "prevalence" reflect services and diagnostic practices but are not great estimates for the actual prevalence of the disorder https://t.co/px7xPix7Qi
— Jonathan Sebat (@sebatlab) December 2, 2021
In other Mandell news, he has stepped down from his role as editor-in-chief of Autism, an announcement that drew an outpouring of mournful tweets.
It's been one of the great privileges of my professional life to edit this journal for the past 10 years, and to work with its extraordinary editorial team. I very much look forward to seeing where the next editor-in-chief takes it. https://t.co/bZGHxPNMbt
— David Mandell (@DSMandell) November 28, 2021
Replying to Brittany Rudd, instructor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he served up an enviable list of activities to fill the newfound gaps in his calendar: “Bake. Woodworking. Gardening. Respond to the bewildering reviews of my most recent grant proposal. Get through my inbox.”
That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, send an email to [email protected].
Cite this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/JGJP7249