The analysis also revealed FASD is notably more frequent among aboriginal populations, children in foster care and residing in orphanages, incarcerated populations, and those in psychiatric care.
“The higher prevalence emphasizes that these high-risk populations deserve special attention for the planning and organization of targeted screening strategies, improved access to diagnostic services, and prevention of maternal alcohol consumption,” wrote senior author Svetlana Popova, Ph.D., of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and colleagues.
Popova and colleagues first conducted a meta-analysis of 24 separate studies that assessed FASD rates; these studies included over 1,400 children with FASD in eight countries: Australia, Canada, Croatia, France, Italy, Norway, South Africa, and the United States. They then used available global data on alcohol consumption rates by women to predict FASD prevalence in the remaining countries.
The global prevalence of FASD was estimated to be around 7.7 per 1,000 children, while the prevalence in the United States was higher at 15.2 per 1,000 children. South Africa had the highest individual country prevalence of FASD at 111.1 per 1,000 children, while Europe had the highest regional prevalence at 19.8 per 1,000 children.
“The current findings emphasize that FASD is not restricted to disadvantaged groups but rather occurs throughout society, regardless of socioeconomic status, educational attainment, or ethnicity,” the authors wrote. “Given the current trend in unplanned pregnancies in developing and developed countries (39% and 47%, respectively), efforts should be made to educate all women of childbearing age about the potential detrimental effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on the developing fetus.”
“Most individuals with FASD living today and those yet to be born will never receive a diagnosis,” wrote Albert Chudley, M.D., of the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine in a related editorial. “Priority for screening and identifying children at risk for FASD should begin with those in the highest-risk categories, such as certain minority groups, children in care, youth involved with the law, and children with learning difficulties and mental health issues.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “NIAAA Proposes Updated Guidelines for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.”