Skip to main content

U of U Department of Psychiatry Releases Follow-up Study on Autism and Mortality


Recently, a follow-up study of the 1980s Utah/UCLA Autism Epidemiologic Study done by researchers in the U of U Department of Psychiatry was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disabilities. The psychiatry department has a program dedicated to the study of autism including subjects like the brain development of children with autism as they grow and develop, how the immune system functions in individuals with autism and genetic studies related to autism within the population of Utah. 

This study’s purpose was to investigate mortality in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) that were previously selected during a statewide 1980s autism prevalence study. The study focused on estimating the mortality hazard rate ratios for the Utah ASD sample when compared to the Utah general population. This study also reports on causes of death among the participants with ASD. 

“Overall the mortality risk associated with ASD in the Utah group appears more related to the presence of co-morbid medical conditions and intellectual disability than the ASD itself,” says Deborah Bilder, MD, in the department of psychiatry and a primary contributor to the study. “From a clinical perspective, the presence of autism and/or intellectual disabilities often complicates the management of other co-occurring medical conditions. “

Bilder believes that “well-coordinated care among the caregivers, primary care provider, neurologist and psychiatrist is essential to minimize mortality and optimize health, functioning and quality of life for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.”

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that begin before age three and continue throughout the life span. To date, no single cause of ASD has been found.  Read Excess Mortality and Causes of Death in Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Follow up of the 1980s Utah/UCLA Autism Epidemiologic Study and visit the Autism Research Lab to learn more.