Data indicate that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be increasing and that it varies geographically. We investigated associations between residential location and ASD in the children of Nurses' Health Study II (United States) participants in order to generate hypotheses about social and environmental factors related to etiology or diagnosis. Analyses included data on 13,507 children born during 1989-1999 (486 with ASD). We explored relationships between ASD and residential location both at birth and at age 6 years (i.e., closer to average age at diagnosis). Generalized additive models were used to predict ASD odds across the United States. Children born in New England were 50% more likely to be diagnosed with ASD compared with children born elsewhere in the United States. Patterns were not explained by geographic variation in maternal age, birth year, child's sex, community income, or prenatal exposure to hazardous air pollutants, indicating that spatial variation is not attributable to these factors. Using the residential address at age 6 years produced similar results; however, areas of significantly decreased ASD odds were observed in the Southeast, where children were half as likely to have ASD. These results may indicate that diagnostic factors are driving spatial patterns; however, we cannot rule out the possibility that other environmental factors are influencing distributions.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2017.
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Geographic variation
- Nurses' Health Study II