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Autism spectrum disorders in adults living in households in England

Gardening Man
Published: September 2009


To measure the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among adults living in the English general population. ASDs are developmental disorders characterised by impaired social interaction and communication, severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behaviours.

This was the first study of its kind anywhere in the world.


1% of adults are estimated to have ASD

ASD was more common among  men (1.8 per cent) than women (0.2 per cent), which fits with the profile found in childhood population studies.

We found no association with age, providing no support the theory of growing prevalence in recent decades.

ASD - linked with lower educational achievement and living in social housing

The prevalence of ASD was highest among those with no qualifications and lowest among those with a degree level qualification.

People renting their accommodation from a social landlord were the most likely to have ASD.

People who have never been married were more likely to have ASD

People who were single (and had never been married) were more likely to be identified with ASD than people of who were currently married or cohabiting or who had been married in the past.

Little evidence of any increased use of health, social or treatment services by this group

Adults with ASD are no more likely to be receiving state financial benefits than adults without ASD andthere was no evidence of any increased use of services among this group.

But people with ASD are less likely to know the answer to questions about their receipt of state benefits and related issues. This is in line with the clinical observation that many are ill-equipped to manage their own finances.


Screening for ASD using a 20-item version of the Autism Quotient (AQ-20), followed by assessments by clinically trained interviewers using the Adult Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) with respondents who had medium to high AQ-20 scores. The results were weighted to generate a prevalence rate for the population as a whole.

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