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Arch Hellen Med, 39(3), May-June 2023, 308-312


The epidemiology of autism spectrum disorder and factors contributing to the increase in its prevalence

C. Depastas, A. Kalaitzaki
Department of Social Work, Hellenic Mediterranean University, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a multifactorial neurodevelopmental disorder which has attracted the interest of researchers in many scientific fields. The prevalence of a disease or a disorder is important for healthcare and socio-economic reasons. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), currently, 1 in 160 children is born with ASD (0.63%), possibly a conservative estimate, as many studies have reported a prevalence higher than 1%. Even so, the WHO rate is approximately 14 times higher than that reported in the first epidemiological study on ASD, which was conducted in the UK 50 years ago. It is currently estimated that approximately 60 million people worldwide have ASD. Diagnosis and documentation of these individuals is challenging, due to the nature of the disorder and its broad spectrum. Many countries have no epidemiological data on ASD and several epidemiological studies on ASD record significant methodological limitations, but the currently available data indicate that the prevalence of ASD has risen over the years. The interpretation of this trend remains uncertain, but several factors have been documented that may have contributed to this apparent increase, including revision of the diagnostic criteria, overdiagnosis, scientific advances, accessibility to services, increase in social awareness, and improvement in the methodology applied in the epidemiological studies, in addition to environmental and other factors.

Key words: Autism, Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Epidemiology, Prevalence.

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