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Epidemiology

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Neurodevelopmental Pediatrics
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Abstract

Epidemiological studies have tracked the prevalence in autism across different world regions since the 1960s–70s when the first studies were conducted in the United States and Northern Europe. At the time, autism was thought to be a rare disorder with narrow clinical criteria. The clinical definitions of autism have continued to expand over time to include milder forms of the condition. In parallel, considerable progress has been achieved in increasing autism awareness and public health response worldwide. As a result, the prevalence of autism increased over time reaching approximately 1–2% of the general population. However, the estimates vary substantially within and across geographic regions reflecting complex and dynamic interaction between patterns of help-seeking, community services capacity, and sociodemographic factors. Epidemiological evidence has also been used to infer possible underlying genetic, biological, or environmental risk factors. Although multiple hypotheses have linked variation in autism prevalence to factors, such as geography, race/ethnicity, nativity, and SES, there is currently no direct evidence to support these hypotheses. Indeed, testing such hypotheses would rely on further research with large and representative samples in diverse world regions followed over time. Nevertheless, epidemiological studies are continuing to make important contributions in informing public policy and building community capacity for research and clinical services.

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Correspondence to Mayada Elsabbagh .

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Elsabbagh, M. (2023). Epidemiology. In: Eisenstat, D.D., Goldowitz, D., Oberlander, T.F., Yager, J.Y. (eds) Neurodevelopmental Pediatrics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-20792-1_13

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