Study Shows Adults with Autism Experience Poorer Health and Healthcare Than Those Without the Disorder

June 06, 2022

Lead Author of New Survey Sounds the Alarm to Healthcare Professionals Over Troubling Results

According to new research from the University of Cambridge, individuals with autism are more likely to have chronic mental and physical health conditions than those without the disorder. Unfortunately, the report also shows they experience lower-quality health care. The current study’s design involved an anonymous, self-reported survey comparing the experiences of 1285 people with autism to 1364 neurotypical people aged 16-96 years from 79 different countries. The survey evaluated rates of mental and physical conditions and the quality of healthcare experiences. Sadly, the results showed that people with autism self-reported lower quality healthcare than others across 50 out of 51 items on the survey. Additionally, due to expressive language challenges and sensory issues, individuals with autism had difficulty describing their symptoms, reporting how bad their pain feels, explaining their symptoms, and comprehending the treatment discussion with their healthcare professional. The survey also showed that people with autism were four times more likely to report experiencing shutdowns or meltdowns due to a common healthcare scenario like setting up an appointment to see a physician. The study also discovered shockingly high rates of chronic physical and mental health conditions including arthritis, breathing concerns, neurological conditions, anorexia, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, insomnia, OCD, panic disorders, personality disorders, PTSD, seasonal affective disorder, and self-harm. Dr. Elizabeth Weir, the study’s lead author, was shocked by the survey’s results. She states, “This study should sound the alarm to healthcare professionals that their autistic patients are experiencing high rates of chronic conditions alongside difficulties with accessing healthcare. Current healthcare systems are failing to meet very fundamental needs of autistic people.” 

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