Young people with autism have more psychiatric and medical conditions than do their typical peers or those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study suggests.
The early onset of these problems suggests they do not stem solely from a lifetime of poor healthcare, says lead researcher Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research.
In general, about one in three people with autism has another psychiatric condition, such as bipolar disorder or anxiety, a rate higher than in the other three groups.
There are exceptions: Depression is more common in people with ADHD than in those with autism. And excessive drug use is least common in the autism group.
Still, the odds of suicide are nearly four times higher among teenagers and young adults with autism than in the control group, the researchers found. “Great attention needs to be paid to help prevent these behaviors,” says Kyle Jones, assistant professor of family and preventative medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, who was not involved in the study.
“One of the big general lessons from the study is how much medical, psychiatric and social issues interplay to impact the health of this population,” Jones says. “Attention to all of these aspects is critical to providing the care that they need and deserve.”
It’s unclear why people with autism have high rates of medical problems, but determining the reasons may help improve their care.
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