Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) substantially contributes to the burden of mental disorders. Improved awareness and changes in diagnostic criteria of ASD may have influenced the diagnostic rates of ASD. However, while data on trends in diagnostic rates in some individual countries have been published, updated estimates of diagnostic rate trends and ASD-related disability at the global level are lacking. Here, we used the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study data to address this gap, focusing on changes in prevalence, incidence, and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) of ASD across the world. From 1990 to 2019, overall age-standardized estimates remained stable globally. Both prevalence and DALYs increased in countries with high socio-demographic index (SDI). However, the age-standardized incidence decreased in some low SDI countries, indicating a need to improve awareness. The male/female ratio decreased between 1990 and 2019, possibly accounted for by increasing clinical attention to ASD in females. Our results suggest that ASD detection in low SDI countries is suboptimal, and that ASD prevention/treatment in countries with high SDI should be improved, considering the increasing prevalence of the disorder. Additionally, growing attention is being paid to ASD diagnosis in females, who might have been left behind by ASD epidemiologic and clinical research previously. ASD burden estimates are underestimated as GBD does not account for mortality in ASD.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.