French Cases of Autism on the Rise

The French Public Health Agency has just published the results of two evaluations of autism cases in its latest weekly epidemiology bulletin. This is a first in France.

Until now, France could only provide unreliable statistics on autism, based on forecasts. This default of data was previously criticized by the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs (“IGAS”). And in 2018, the French Court of Auditors deplored the “insufficient reliability of the data available”.

In the editorial of the bulletin, Claire Compagnon, Interministerial Delegate for Autism and Neurodevelopment Disorders, declares: “a better knowledge of the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as the living conditions of people with ASD, is a major challenge.”

In April 2018, the government launched its’ fourth “national autism strategic plan” to “better identify the neurodevelopmental disorders where autism appears, to diagnose and treat earlier” as well as “implement widespread training for all professionals ”.

At that time, the government reported 700,000 cases of autism, including 100,000 children, and that one in 100 children had ASD. Today’s national public health bulletin mentions that 119,260 people have autism (identified in 2017), representing 0.18% of the population, and underlines that men are affected three times more frequently than women.

To evaluate the statistics in children, two clinical studies were conducted in the regions of Haute-Garonne and Haute-Savoie, to compare the results for those born in 1995-1997 and those born in 2007-2009.

In 10 years time, the prevalence of autism has tripled from 2.3 to 7.7 children per 1000 in the Haute-Savoie region. In the Haute-Garonne region, there were 12.3 cases per 1000 for children born between 2007 and 2009. However, it should be noted that the proportion of children with mental insufficiency linked to the disorder has significantly decreased.

For children born in 2010, the rate of prevalence ranges from 8-10 cases out of 1000.

The bulletin specifies: “Although all regions showed wide variations in the prevalence of autism cases and an upward trend, this is probably explained as much by the strong and weak points in data systems, as by the increasingly broader acceptance of defining autism according to international classifications. »

Co-author of the report, Catherine Ha, an epidemiologist explains that “The national strategic plans have improved our ability to identify these disorders, although that may not account for the entire increase. Our knowledge of the risk factors involved is still limited, and cannot exclude the influence of environmental factors.”

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