The prevalence of autism in the United States remained relatively stable from 2014 to 2016, according to a new analysis. The results were published 2 January in the Journal of the American Medical Association1.
The researchers report the frequency of autism in the U.S. as 2.24 percent in 2014, 2.41 percent in 2015 and 2.76 percent in 2016, respectively. The new data come from the National Health Interview Survey — a yearly interview in which trained census workers ask tens of thousands of parents about the health of their children. These questions include whether a healthcare professional has ever told them that their child has autism.
Autism’s reported prevalence in the U.S. has climbed steadily in the past few decades. Researchers attribute most of this increase to changes in how the prevalence is measured, increased awareness of the condition and shifts in the criteria for diagnosing autism.
Reports of autism prevalence worldwide seem to be converging at 2 to 3 percent, says Young Shin Kim, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.
The new rates jibe with those that emerged from a 2011 prevalence study in South Korea. That study showed that about 2.64 percent of children in one school district have autism.
“I think we are saturating,” says Kim, who led that study. “Whatever study method you are using, it will be leveling off at that point.”