Rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continue to soar worldwide, with average prevalence estimated to be around 1.5% in developed countries. This estimate appears to be spot-on for Canada, which reported in March 2018 that autism (as of 2015) affected 1 in 66 children and youth (1.52%). These numbers place Canada among the “top ten” for autism among North American, European and Asian countries.
The Canadian public had been expecting the Public Health Agency of Canada to release these first-ever nationally representative ASD numbers since 2016. The data come from the National ASD Surveillance System (NASS), which, according to the Public Health Agency, is intended to pinpoint the number of young people diagnosed with ASD “both across regions and over time.” The Agency’s report provides answers on both fronts — showing steady increases in ASD prevalence since 2003 and notable differences across regions—but the document declines to speculate on factors that might account for the regional differences.
NASS compiles administrative data from the health, education and social services sectors for children and youth (aged 5 —17 years) who have a confirmed ASD diagnosis. Seven of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories provided information for 2015, including six provinces (British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec) and one territory (Yukon). As the figure below shows, ASD prevalence in 2015 varied among the seven regions, with the highest prevalence noted in the three provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador (1 in 57), Prince Edward Island (1 in 59) and Quebec (1 in 65). In comparison, prevalence was substantially lower in the Yukon territory (1 in 125).
© 2018 World Mercury Project