People with autism spectrum disorder are dying at TWICE the rate of the general population, according to a study published today in the international journal Autism Research. And the leading cause of death isn’t cancer or heart disease; it’s injury/poisoning, including suicide.
Josh died by suicide and I firmly believe his death could have been prevented if he had received appropriate and adequate health care that accommodated his ASD needs.
The authors of this study said in a media release that their results are a ‘troubling indicator’ of the range of health inequalities experienced by people with ASD.
“It’s important to note the results do not point to elevated mortality for autistic people as a result of their being on the spectrum. Rather, the results indicate there needs to be a greater understanding of autism and co-occuring conditions within the health services sector, and that more equitable access to health services needs to be a priority for government and health service providers,” said senior study author Professor Trollor from UNSW Medicine.
Finally, this study provides some concrete evidence to back up my argument that Australian health services need to take ASD needs much more seriously. As these shocking death rates show, it is indeed a matter of life and death.
An inquest will investigate the health care Josh received and how it may have contributed to his death. The date is yet to be set.