Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 394–404 | Cite as

Urbanicity and Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Marlene B. LauritsenEmail author
  • Aske Astrup
  • Carsten Bøcker Pedersen
  • Carsten Obel
  • Diana E. Schendel
  • Laura Schieve
  • Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp
  • Erik T. Parner
Original Paper


The etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is for the majority of cases unknown and more studies of risk factors are needed. Geographic variation in ASD occurrence has been observed, and urban residence has been suggested to serve as a proxy for etiologic and identification factors in ASD. We examined the association between urbanicity level and ASD at birth and during childhood. The study used a Danish register-based cohort of more than 800,000 children of which nearly 4,000 children were diagnosed with ASD. We found a dose–response association with greater level of urbanicity and risk of ASD. This association was found for residence at birth as well as residence during childhood. Further, we found an increased risk of ASD in children who moved to a higher level of urbanicity after birth. Also, earlier age of ASD diagnosis in urban areas was observed. While we could not directly examine the specific reasons behind these associations, our results demonstrating particularly strong associations between ASD diagnosis and post-birth migration suggest the influence of identification-related factors such as access to services might have a substantive role on the ASD differentials we observed.


Autism Risk Urbanicity Movement Diagnosis 



The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marlene B. Lauritsen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aske Astrup
    • 3
  • Carsten Bøcker Pedersen
    • 4
  • Carsten Obel
    • 5
  • Diana E. Schendel
    • 6
  • Laura Schieve
    • 6
  • Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp
    • 6
  • Erik T. Parner
    • 3
  1. 1.Research Unit of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryAalborg University HospitalAalborgDenmark
  2. 2.Regional Centre for Child and Adolescent PsychiatryAarhus University HospitalAarhusDenmark
  3. 3.Section for Biostatistics, Department of Public HealthUniversity of AarhusAarhusDenmark
  4. 4.Faculty of Social Sciences, The National Centre for Register-Based ResearchUniversity of AarhusAarhusDenmark
  5. 5.Department of General PracticeUniversity of AarhusAarhusDenmark
  6. 6.Centers for Disease Control and PreventionNational Center on Birth Defects and Developmental DisabilitiesAtlantaUSA

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