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Co-occurring autism, intellectual disabilities pose long-term health disadvantages

15 May 2020

Individuals with co-occurring intellectual disabilities and autism appear to be in an unfavourable position, as they are more likely to have additional long-term health conditions such as sensory impairments and physical disabilities, as reported in a study.

Researchers looked at 5,295,403 people aged 0–75+ years. They identified co-occurring intellectual disabilities and autism in 2,362 of 916,331 children (0–15 years) and in 3,347 of 4,379,072 adults, with a total number of 5,709 individuals (66 percent male; rate, 1.08 per 1,000 population).

Long-term health conditions were more common in children, adults and older adults with co-occurring intellectual disabilities and autism than in controls. Specifically, the odds ratios were 130.8 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 117.1–146.1) for mental health condition, 65.9 (95 percent CI, 58.7–73.9) for visual impairment, 22.0 (95 percent CI, 19.2–25.2) for hearing impairment and 157.5 (95 percent CI, 144.6–171.7) for physical disability.

Across all age groups of individuals with co-occurring intellectual disabilities and autism, women had a higher prevalence of blindness, deafness and physical disability than men. On the other hand, mental health conditions were more common in the latter. All long-term health conditions increased in prevalence with age, except for physical disability, which was more prevalent among children/youth and elderly than among adults.

The present data have important implications given that long-term health conditions may largely affect quality of life, according to the researchers. Sensory impairments and mental health conditions compound with the pre-existing communication and cognitive problems of people with co-occurring intellectual disabilities and autism. This poses a challenge for healthcare professionals managing or working with the said people in terms of additional complexity in assessments, diagnoses and interventions of additional health conditions.

The researchers pointed out that the medical professionals providing care for the present population be trained, equipped, resourced and prepared to address the challenge.

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Most Read Articles
01 Dec 2020
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Dr. Hsu Li Yang, Dr. Tan Thuan Tong, Dr. Andrea Kwa, 08 Jan 2021
Antimicrobial resistance has become increasingly dire as the rapid emergence of drug resistance, especially gram-negative pathogens, has outpaced the development of new antibiotics. At a recent virtual symposium, Dr Hsu Li Yang, Vice Dean (Global Health) and Programme Leader (Infectious Diseases), NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, presented epidemiological data on multidrug-resistant (MDR) gram-negative bacteria (GNB) in Asia, while Dr Tan Thuan Tong, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Infectious Diseases, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), focused on the role of ceftazidime-avibactam in MDR GNB infections. Dr Andrea Kwa, Assistant Director of Research, Department of Pharmacy, SGH, joined the panel in an interactive fireside chat, to discuss challenges, practical considerations, and solutions in MDR gram-negative infections. This Pfizer-sponsored symposium was chaired by Dr Ng Shin Yi, Head and Senior Consultant of Surgical Intensive Care, SGH.
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