Mortality of People on the Autism Spectrum

Published February 2019

The Autism CRC project ‘Using big data to better understand health and wellbeing’ has two primary overarching objectives:

•    Part A : To investigate reasons for encounters, problems managed, referrals being made and medications prescribed by Australian GPs to young autistic people in comparison with those without an autism diagnosis.

•    Part B: To use the existing New South Wales state-based linked administrative data infrastructure to explore the potential of an existing autism flag or identifier to examine mortality, cause of death and health outcomes for autistic Australians and compare these to the non-autistic population.

The following report refers to outcomes from Part B of the project

A key indicator of health inequality is excess mortality. That is, a higher risk of death, or more premature death within a given time period, compared with the general population. 

Understanding what contributes to excess mortality is important to reduce preventable deaths. This is the first Australian study to look at mortality rates specifically in autistic individuals and people on the autism spectrum with intellectual disability. 

This study compared the death rates of autistic people with those in the general population. Researchers also looked at the causes of death in autistic people, and compared these with the general population. It included information about nearly 36,000 autistic people in NSW, and looked at all the people in this group who died from 2001 to 2015, between the ages of 5 and 64 years old.