A Comparison of Autism Prevalence Trends in Denmark and Western Australia.

15 Feb

I bring this up because there is a common argument that the autism “rates” in places like Denmark and Sweden are much lower than those in the US and elsewhere. This is used to try to negate studies using those country’s populations in, for example, showing that there is no increased risk from thimerosal or the MMR vaccine. This error often stems from comparing “incidence” to “prevalence”.

Is the autism prevalence low in Denmark? Not really. This paper just out (and other reports previously, including this one cited by Steven Novella) show a prevalence pretty comparable to the US.

J Autism Dev Disord. 2011 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print]
A Comparison of Autism Prevalence Trends in Denmark and Western Australia.

Parner ET, Thorsen P, Dixon G, de Klerk N, Leonard H, Nassar N, Bourke J, Bower C, Glasson EJ.

Institute of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark.
Abstract

Prevalence statistics for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) vary widely across geographical boundaries. Some variation can be explained by diagnostic methods, case ascertainment and age at diagnosis. This study compared prevalence statistics for two distinct geographical regions, Denmark and Western Australia, both of which have had population-based registers and consistent classification systems operating over the past decade. Overall ASD prevalence rates were higher in Denmark (68.5 per 10,000 children) compared with Western Australia (51.0 per 10,000 children), while the diagnosis of childhood autism was more prevalent in Western Australia (39.3 per 10,000 children) compared with Denmark (21.8 per 10,000 children). These differences are probably caused by local phenomena affecting case ascertainment but influence from biological or geographical factors may exist.

Prevalence of 68.5 per 10,000 children. A previous estimate was 80 per 10,000. Generation Rescue claimed a rate of 1 in 2200 (4.5 per 10,000) when they tried to make the case that…oh I bet you can guess…that vaccines cause autism. The 1 in 80 figure was already published, so I doubt they will change their story given yet another study.

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8 Responses to “A Comparison of Autism Prevalence Trends in Denmark and Western Australia.”

  1. sharon February 15, 2011 at 08:40 #

    Thanks for this info Sullivan. As a Western Australian I find this of particular interest.

  2. passionlessDrone February 15, 2011 at 14:16 #

    Hi Sullivan –

    To my mind, this kind of shows what a mess all of our studies are; anyone trying to use any particular two studies as evidence of anything is pushing an agenda.

    I wonder why they chose Western Australia as a data point. At one point, I did a little reading about the Denmark medical system, whatever your thoughts on socialized medicine (cue scary music), they do have a system in place where everything is available in a relatively standardized format; especially compared to the fragmented style in the US. I can see why it is a useful place from which to cull data.

    Does anyone else know if Australia has a similar system. (I doubt it). Tragically, I would argue it isn’t out of the question to assert that the data availability in Denmark is a confounder in this type of study; i.e., not just that they recognize autism differently, but that when recognized, it is available electronically in the same way.

    – pD

  3. sharon February 15, 2011 at 14:44 #

    @pD in the blurb above it explains “..both of which had population- registers and consistent classification systems operating over the last decade.” I think this explains why WA was chosen.

  4. passionlessDrone February 15, 2011 at 15:40 #

    Hi Sharon –

    Thanks. [sorry!]

    – pD

  5. David N. Brown February 18, 2011 at 19:42 #

    Uh-oh! One of the authors is Poul Thorsen!
    Gee, he sure has published a lot of papers since he reportedly “disappeared”.

  6. AutismNewsBeat February 19, 2011 at 14:26 #

    I thought he’s been tried, convicted and executed?

    /snark

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