Thursday, October 27, 2022

Females With Autism More Likely Than Males to Develop Psychiatric Disorder, Study Finds

Females with autism are more likely than males to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before their 25th birthday, according to a study published yesterday in JAMA Psychiatry.

“Around 70% of autistic children meet diagnostic criteria for at least [one] psychiatric disorder, and 54% to 79% of autistic adults receive at least [one] psychiatric diagnosis,” wrote Miriam Martini, M.Sc., and Ralf Kuja-Halkola, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues. “Mental health problems are reported even among autistic individuals showing good outcomes in other areas of functioning.”

Martini, Kuja-Halkola, and colleagues conducted a population-based cohort study including all individuals born in Sweden between 1985 and 1997. The authors used the National Patient Register to identify those participants who were diagnosed with autism from age 1 onward and to identify participants who were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder between ages 16 and 24. They included 11 psychiatric disorders in their analyses, including anxiety, psychotic, and sleep disorders. They also analyzed psychiatric hospitalizations among the participants.

Of the 1.3 million individuals included in the study, 20,841 received an autism diagnosis, 34% of whom were female. Among females with autism, 77 of 100 received at least one psychiatric diagnosis, compared with 62 of 100 males. Both females and males with autism were about three times more likely to receive a psychiatric diagnosis compared with an individual of the same sex who did not have autism, but the risk was higher for females with autism. By age 25, 22.1% of females with autism and 10.9% of males with autism had been hospitalized due to a psychiatric disorder, compared with less than 4% among people without autism.

“The findings of this large, population-based sample … demonstrate a high level of psychiatric difficulties among young autistic female individuals, and thus clearly emphasize this group’s pressing mental health needs,” the authors wrote. “Nevertheless, we need to consider psychiatric disorders in both sexes as psychiatric diagnoses and hospitalizations were more likely in autistic female and male individuals compared with non-autistic individuals of the same sex.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Comorbidities Increase Suicide Risk in People With Autism.”

(Image: iStock/Dziggyfoto)

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