Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 437–444 | Cite as

Autism in the Faroe Islands. An Epidemiological Study

  • Asa Ellefsen
  • Hanna Kampmann
  • Eva Billstedt
  • I. Carina Gillberg
  • Christopher GillbergEmail author
Original Paper


The Faroe Islands are considered to be a genetic isolate. This population study of the prevalence of autism sought to identify a representative cohort for future genetic studies. In 2002 all schools were screened for autism spectrum disorders. The target population were all children born in 1985 through 1994 and living in the Faroe Islands on December 31, 2002. Children who screened positive for autism characteristics were examined using the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO). Of the children aged 8 through 17 years, 0.56% had childhood autism, Asperger syndrome or atypical autism. The male:female ratio was just under 6:1. The prevalence of autism in the Faroe Islands was very similar to that reported from many western countries.


autism spectrum disorder autism prevalence population study Faroe Islands 


  1. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th Edition. Washington, DC: APA (DSM-IV).Google Scholar
  2. Arvidsson, T., Danielsson, B., Forsberg, P., Gillberg, C., Johansson, M., & Källgren, G. (1997). Autism in 3–6-year-old children in a suburb of Göteborg, Sweden. Autism, 1, 163–173.Google Scholar
  3. Billstedt, E., Gillberg, I. C., & Gillberg, C. (2005). Autism after adolescence: population-based 13–22 year follow-up study of 120 individuals with autism diagnosed in childhood. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35, 351–360.Google Scholar
  4. Ehlers, S., & Gillberg, C. (1993). The epidemiology of Asperger syndrome. A total population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 1327–1350.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Fombonne, E. (2003). Epidemiological surveys of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders: An update. Journal Autism and Developmental Disorders, 33, 365–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Geiger, D. A., & Geiger, M. R. (2004). A comparative evaluation of the effects of MMR immunization and mercury doses from thimerosal––containing childhood vaccines on the population prevalence of autism. Medical Science Monitor, 10, 133–139.Google Scholar
  7. Gillberg, C., & Wing, L. (1999). Autism: Not an extremely rare disorder. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 99, 399–406.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Gillberg, C., & Coleman, M. (2000). The biology of the autistic syndromes. London: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gillberg, C., Cederlund, M., Lamberg, K., & Zeiljon, L. (2006). Brief report: “the autism epidemic”. The registered prevalence of autism in a Swedish urban area. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 429–435.Google Scholar
  10. Jamain, S., Quach, H., Betancur, C., Rastam, M., Colineaux, C., Gillberg, I. C., Soderstrom, H., Giros, B., Leboyer, M., Gillberg, C., & Bourgeron, T. (2003). Mutations of the X-linked genes encoding neuroligins NLGN3 and NLGN4 are associated with autism. Nature Genetics, 34, 27–29.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kopp, S., & Gillberg, C. (2005). One hundred girls with social and attention deficits (submitted).Google Scholar
  12. Leekam, S., Libby, S., Wing, L., Gould, J., & Gillberg, C. (2000). Comparison of ICD-10 and Gillberg’s criteria for Asperger syndrome. Autism, 4, 11–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lord, C., Rutter, M., & Le Couteur, A. (1994). Autism diagnostic interview––revised: A revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 659–685.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Madsen, K. M., Lauritsen, M. B., Pedersen, C. B., Thorsen, P., Plesner, A. M., Andersen, P. H., & Mortensen, P. B. (2003). Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Pediatrics, 112, 604–606.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Miller, J. N., & Ozonoff, S. (1997). Did Asperger´s cases have Asperger´s disorder? A research note. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 247–251.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Rice, D. C. (2000). Identification of functional domains affected by developmental exposure to methylmercury: Faroe Islands and related studies. Neurotoxicology, 21, 1039–1044.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Rutter, M. (2000). Genetic studies of autism: from the 1970s into the millennium. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 28, 3–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Wechsler, D. (1981). Wechsler adult intelligence scale-revised. San Antonio. TX: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  19. Weihe, P., Debes, F., White, R. F., Sorensen, N., Budtz-Jorgensen, E., Keiding, N., & Grandjean, P. (2003). Environmental epidemiology research leads to a decrease of the exposure limit for mercury. Ugeskrift for Laeger, 6, 107–111.Google Scholar
  20. WHO, (1993). The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioural disorders. WHO: Diagnostic Criteria for Research Geneva.Google Scholar
  21. Wing, L., Leekam, S. R., Libby, S. J., Gould, J., & Larcombe, M. (2002). The diagnostic interview for social and communication disorders: Background, inter-rater reliability and clinical use. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 307–325.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Yeargin-Allsopp, M., Rice, C., Karapurkar, T., Doernberg, N., Boyle, C., & Muphy, C. (2003) Prevalence of autism in a US metropolitan area. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1, 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Asa Ellefsen
    • 1
  • Hanna Kampmann
    • 1
  • Eva Billstedt
    • 1
  • I. Carina Gillberg
    • 1
  • Christopher Gillberg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Departments of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryGöteborg UniversityGöteborgSweden
  2. 2.St George´s Hospital Medical SchoolUniversity of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations