The Number of People with ASD in England Could Be Twice as High as Previous Estimations Due to Undiagnosed Adults

August 28, 2023

Researchers Call for Improved Access to Adult Autism Diagnostic Services

New research from University College London suggests that the number of individuals with autism in England could be over twice the figure commonly referenced in national health policy papers. This study aimed to gauge the number of adults in England who may have undiagnosed autism. Researchers calculated the number of people who had received an autism diagnosis from anonymized data from more than 5 million individuals registered at primary care practices in England between 2000 and 2018. They then compared these figures with a lower (1%) and upper (3%) estimate of how common autism is in the population. The lower estimate was based on the widely stated figure that around 1% of people in England are autistic. The upper estimate was based on a current  2.94% rate of diagnosed autism in young people (aged 10-19). According to the study, the midpoint rate between these figures translates to approximately 750,000 undiagnosed people on the spectrum aged 20 and older in England. If accurate, this new estimate brings the total autistic population to over 1.2 million – approaching double the 700,000 figure cited by the UK government. The authors are calling for better access to adult diagnostic services and support after diagnosis. They also want to encourage greater acceptance and understanding of those on the spectrum in society.

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