Rising Cases of Autism in UK Raise Concerns

Decades ago, researchers believed that autism disoder affected one in every 2,500 kids. Today, it is estimated that one in 36 kids have the disorder.

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects how an individual interacts with other people, behaves, communicates and learns. While this disorder can be diagnosed at any age, symptoms often appear in the first two years of life.

Research has found that between 1998 and 2018, there has been a more than 780% increase in the number of autism cases in the United Kingdom. This significant increase is partly because of a deeper understanding and awareness of the disorder, as well as the number of physicians who can diagnose the neurological condition.

Additionally, wider assessment boundaries have grown to include individuals for whom the disorder would never have been considered as a potential diagnosis, particularly girls and women.

The resulting awareness has led many grownups to seek medical help to explain things they may have been aware of at a younger age. However, some experts also believe that the increase may also be attributed to overdiagnosis, although this remains unproven.

Now, a new study has found that in the last 12 months, there has been a 50% rise in the number of individuals who may have autism in the United Kingdom. The lead researcher of a separate study, Elizabeth O’Nions, stated that autism was still under-recognized in adults, with more than 90% of all autistic individuals aged 50 and older in the UK being undiagnosed.

Dr. Peter Carpenter, chair of the Neurodevelopmental Psychiatry Special Interest Group, examined this, noting that the expertise needed to review the adult population and diagnose autism wasn’t available. Carpenter noted that they had no realistic idea of what an autistic 50-year-old looked like.

Changes in how autism is understood among individuals with learning disabilities have also been observed. In the 1980s, researchers believed that only a quarter of those with learning disabilities had autism. Now, the National Health Service recognizes that this figure may be three-quarters.

Experts also note that the elimination of Asperger syndrome as a diagnosis may have attributed to the increase in autism diagnoses. The Asperger’s label, which was created in the early ‘90’s, was officially removed from the DSM. This was after the condition was included under the autism umbrella.

Additionally, the neurodiversity movement of the 1990s also helped fight stigma, facilitated great changes in identification and redefined autism as an identity rather than an illness. This, experts think, may have also influenced the increase in autism diagnoses.

As the experts dig into why cases of autism are on the rise, enterprises such as PaxMedica Inc. (NASDAQ: PXMD) are investing in research and development to come up with formulations targeting this growing concern.

NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to PaxMedica Inc. (NASDAQ: PXMD) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/PXMD

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