Adults with autism are more likely to suffer seizure disorders and depression, according to a new study. The findings are noteworthy because seizures are associated with shorter life expectancy and an increased need for assistance with daily living activities.

Young adults with autism also have higher rates of hypertension, high cholesterol, allergies, and anxiety. Says lead author Robert J. Fortuna, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics in primary care at the University of Rochester Medical Center:

“Autism is one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions in childhood, estimated to affect 1 in 68 children. Although it has been extensively studied in children, little is known about health conditions in adults with autism.”

Senior author Philip W. Davidson, a professor emeritus of pediatrics, environmental medicine, and psychiatry, adds:

“This study highlights the importance of careful monitoring of their health status and urges us to examine best practices to facilitate their access to high-quality health care.”

Davidson and colleagues compared information from 255 adults ages 18 to 71 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to a similar group of the general population.

A significant portion of the studied group had intellectual disabilities as measured by IQ scores. Those with intellectual disability and depression were more likely to need help with functional tasks.

Ultimately, the majority of older adults over 40 years of age with autism required some assistance with activities of daily living, such as dressing and bathing.

“Adults with autism frequently face barriers to accessing health care and receiving recommended treatments for common problems,” Fortuna says. “Therefore, greater awareness is needed to ensure that adults with autism are treated for conditions that are more prevalent with autism as well as conditions that are commonly encountered with advancing age.”

Robert J. Fortuna , Laura Robinson, Tristram H. Smith, Jon Meccarello, Beth Bullen, Kathryn Nobis, Philip W. Davidson Health Conditions and Functional Status in Adults with Autism: A Cross-Sectional Evaluation Journal of General Internal Medicine DOI 10.1007/s11606-015-3509-x

Photo: Daniel Zedda/Flickr

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