Links Found Between Autism and Migration

19/05/2010 § 1 Comment

Autism and migration. Claudia finds out why leaving your country of birth to live elsewhere could pose a health risk to any children you later have in your new adoptive country. For the first time a large-scale study has shown that the risk of autism could be as much as five times higher in children whose mothers migrated to the UK from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia. She discusses this with Daphne Keen consultant paediatrician at St George’s Hospital in London.

Health Check on BBC World Service 17th May 2010

Listen here

First study to look at more than 400 children.

Following up on sporadic reports over the years, one study from Austialia in mid 1970’s which noticed an increase in autism in children born to German and Greek immigrants.

Looking at 400 children born in UK. Found an increased risk if parents had migrated from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia but not from other European counties.

The size of the increase of the risk, was greatest for the Caribbean population which was at least 5 times. the risk was significant but a bit less for the African population and a much smaller but still elevated fro those the Asian population.

Is ethnicity the factor then?  No. When the children whose parents had migrated from the Caribbean and Africa, were compared to those children who were born also born to parents from Caribbean and Africa but in UK. When analysed together the risk fell considerably, therefore it suggested that immigration is the major factor and ethnicity was just possibly a factor.

An idea to consider: the residual effect is in fact and attenuated risk observed in second and third generation, but has not been studied.

Could it be a by product of the stresses of migration?  – Although it is unkown what causes autism, it is not considered to be linked with adversity or  socio economic factors. However some links have been suggested between those kind of stress factors and social isolations and the on set of schizophrenia.

It was observed in this study that the child with autism was not always the first child to be born in the family following the migration.

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