A study has confirmed that autistic people experience a reduced life expectancy, revealing an urgent need to address inequalities. The study also found that the number of years of life lost may not be as high as previously thought.
The research is the first to estimate the life expectancy and years of life lost by autistic people living in the UK.
Anonymised data was used to study people who received an autism diagnosis between 1989 and 2019. More than 17,000 people diagnosed as autistic without a learning disability and 6450 diagnosed as autistic with a learning disability were included.
Autistic men without a learning disability had an average estimated life expectancy of 74.6 years, while autistic women without a learning disability had an expectancy of around 76.8 years.
For people diagnosed with autism and learning disability, theirs was found to be around 71.7 years for men and 69.6 years for women.
The usual life expectancy for men and women in the UK is around 80 years and 83 years respectively.
Lead investigator Professor Josh Stott emphasised the ‘need to find out why some autistic people are dying prematurely so that we can identify ways to prevent this from happening’.
Joint lead author Dr Elizabeth O’Nions added: ‘We believe that [our] findings…reflect inequalities that disproportionately affect autistic people.’ She highlighted that ‘services must be inclusive and accommodating of those who have particular support needs by adapting how they operate’.
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