A description of medical conditions in adults with autism spectrum disorder: A follow-up of the 1980s Utah/UCLA Autism Epidemiologic Study

Autism. 2016 Jul;20(5):551-61. doi: 10.1177/1362361315594798. Epub 2015 Jul 10.


This study describes medical conditions experienced by a population-based cohort of adults with autism spectrum disorder whose significant developmental concerns were apparent during childhood. As part of a 25-year outcome study of autism spectrum disorder in adulthood, medical histories were collected on 92 participants (N = 69 males) who were first ascertained as children in the mid-1980s, 11 of whom were deceased at the time of follow-up. Questionnaires queried medical symptoms, disorders, hospitalizations, surgeries, and medication use. Median age at follow-up was 36 years (range: 23.5-50.5 years), and intellectual disability co-occurred in 62%. The most common medical conditions were seizures, obesity, insomnia, and constipation. The median number of medical conditions per person was 11. Increased medical comorbidity was associated with female gender (p = 0.01) and obesity (p = 0.03), but not intellectual disability (p = 0.79). Adults in this cohort of autism spectrum disorder first ascertained in the 1980s experience a high number of chronic medical conditions, regardless of intellectual ability. Understanding of these conditions commonly experienced should direct community-based and medical primary care for this population.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder; medical comorbidity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Utah / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Prescription Drugs