2014 to 2019 saw increase in prevalence of autism in U.S. children

There was a slight increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) among U.S. children from 2014 to 2019, with racial/ethnic disparities in trends, according to a research letter published online March 5 in JAMA Network Open.

Jing Yuan, Ph.D., from the School of Pharmacy at Fudan University in Shanghai, and colleagues used data from the National Health Interview Survey to examine trends and racial/ethnic disparities in ASD prevalence from 2014 to 2019. Data were included for 52,550 U.S. children and adolescents aged 3 to 17 years.

The researchers found that 2.53 percent of the eligible individuals had been diagnosed with ASD between 2014 and 2019, with an overall weighted prevalence of 2.49 percent. The prevalence of ASD was 2.65, 2.85, and 1.94 percent in non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic individuals, respectively. There was a slight increase noted in the weighted prevalence of ASD across the study period, from 2.24 percent in 2014 to 2.79 percent in 2019 (P for trend, 0.32). In non-Hispanic White individuals, the prevalence remained stable (2.55 percent in 2014 and 2.54 percent in 2019; P for trend, 0.47). Although no statistically significant changes were seen in other racial/ethnic groups, the prevalence increased from 2.21 to 3.16 percent in non-Hispanic Black individuals (P for trend, 0.07) and from 1.49 to 2.08 percent in Hispanic individuals (P trend, 0.08).

“Our findings suggest racial/ethical disparities in the temporal trend of ASD prevalence, although these differences were not statistically significant,” the authors write.