General health status of children


Reported childhood prevalence of autism varies considerably between studies and over time, and general health status has been little investigated. We aimed to investigate contemporary prevalence of reported autism by age, and general health status of children and young people with and without autism.

What we did

Whole country data were drawn from Scotland’s Census, 2011. We calculated the number and percentage of children and young people reported to have autism. We then calculated and compared the frequencies of health status in children and young people with and without autism. We subsequently used logistic regressions to calculate odds ratios with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) of autism predicting poor general health in the whole population, adjusted for age and gender, and odds ratio (95% CI) of age and gender predicting poor general health within the population with reported autism.

What we found

Autism was reported for 17,348/916,331 (1.9%) children aged 0–15, and 7,715/632,488 (1.2%) young people aged 16–24. The rate increased to age 11 in boys and age 10 in girls, reflecting age at diagnosis. Prevalence was 2.8% at age 10 (4.4% for boys; 1.1% for girls), and 2.9% at age 11 (4.5% for boys; 1.1% for girls). 22.0% of children and 25.5% of young people with autism reported poor health, compared with 2.0% and 4.4% without autism. Autism had an odds ratio of 11.3 (95% CI 11.0 to 11.7) in predicting poor health. Autistic females had poorer health than autistic males, with odds ratio for female gender reported at 1.6 (95% CI 1.5 to 1.8).

What this means

Accurate information on the proportion of autistic children and their health status is essential to plan appropriate prevention and intervention measures and provide resources for those who may put demand on services designed for autistic people.

The original publication associated with this research can be found here

For further information on this project please contact Ewelina Rydzewska

Page updated 7th September 2020