The first question that comes to our mind after reading the about developed countries with lowest autism rates is the connection between a country’s development and autism. We usually expect that citizens of developed countries are highly protected from disease and that these nations are very committed to preserving public health. So, how high is the autism rate in the countries which are considered to be the most developed countries in the world?
First, it is hard to specify the exact number of people with autism. Through our history, a lot of doctors and scientists belonging to different schools have used numerous methods in their attempt to define autism as a disease, or perhaps a medical disorder. As a result, there are various definitions of autism nowadays, but we still do not know what exactly it is and how it develops in children’s bodies. What we know for sure is that it is not a disease, but more likely a number of symptoms expressed on the intensity scale. Defining just one of the symptoms is not mostly enough because there are considerable differences in the type and intensity of symptoms. Every patient is different, so the symptoms evident in one patient can be completely opposite to those evident in another. Consequently, doctors today do not use the word “autism” anymore, but the abbreviation ASD, meaning Autism Spectrum Disorder. The age when ASD’s symptoms are visible is different from patient to patient, which causes a big problem to doctors who must find the easiest way to diagnose autism as soon as possible. Our research was focused on the children from the age of two to 17, when it is the easiest and most likely to diagnose autism.
Autism, or ASD, is one of the most controversial diseases in the world with all the difficulty in diagnosing it and hence, the number of the people suffering from it. If we observe autism rates in Europe, we will see that the numbers are increasing, which entails more research and better medical care. Many of the European countries are on the list of 11 Countries With the Highest Autism Rates in the World, which proves that our claim that the autism rate is higher in developed countries is true. However, the answer to the question why it is so is still vague. New Zealand, for example, one of the highest developed countries, according to economists, has the highest prevalence of autism – one affected in 66 people which is equal to 151 cases in 10,000.
Doubts about the causes and symptoms of autism have led to one of the biggest controversies in medicine. After a newspaper article in which a doctor named Andy Wakefield wrote about the study he had allegedly done among the children suffering from autism and his claims that MMR vaccine caused autism, people started to believe that vaccines are triggers for autism, especially because of mercury used for the preservation of these vaccines. Even though a lot of research later proved that the doctor’s experiment was not done in accordance with medical regulations, that the sample was very small (only 12 children) and finally, that he actually did not prove anything, it is still very difficult to eradicate the belief that vaccines cause autism. Defining the autism rate with unvaccinated population has never been done so far, since parents of unvaccinated children have rejected participation in the research done by official medicine. Although people know vaccines are important to preserve public health, there are a lot of countries with a very low rate of vaccinated people, and even some doctors (mostly those who treat unvaccinated children) claim that vaccines are harmful to children.
Doctors all over the world have made an effort to prove that vaccines are not dangerous and that autism rate is not on the increase as has been claimed, but that the way of diagnosing and defining autism has been changed. Opposite to the practice of doctors in the past who did not accept the existence of autism and claimed that children suffered from some other well-known diseases or disorders in spite of the obvious symptoms of autism, new researchers have proven that autism mostly affects people highly talented for art or science. According to some medical papers, many scientists and artists had some type of autism which had never been diagnosed because doctors did not consider it to be a disease at that time. As one of the doctors said, there is no artist in human history that did not have any of the symptoms of autism.
So, we can conclude that people in developed countries are not more prone to autism. These countries are simply more dedicated to examining, diagnosing and keeping records on autism, and many of them organize centers which provide help to people with autism. Having collected all the necessary information on this subject, a lot of countries are now familiar with a wide range of symptoms which indicate autism, they investigate the ages which are most prone to it and they can finally provide much better medical help.
Firstly we needed to form a list of developed countries according to the Human Development Index (HDI), gross domestic product (GDP) or other parameters like level of industrialization, the standard of living and life expectancy. We got a list of 24 highly development countries at this moment and then we observed autism rates in each of these countries in order to come to the most accurate list of 12 developed countries with lowest autism rates.
However, our methodology is still questionable due to little or not precise data available. Keep in mind that there has never been done a proper global study where the number of children affected with ASD would be precisely counted so we had to check for the numbers of them in each country individually. Although some countries have accurately reported data (like US or UK), there are some countries which have researched only certain regions in the country (Italy, for example, has data only for Catania and we had to use that on our list). Despite the great effort we have made, we have not found precisely reported numbers for Turkey either. But, taking the all we said above, even if the rate of the people with ASD had been researched globally, it would have never derived to the completely precise results. The only thing we have, for now, are presumed numbers of people with ASD expressed as the number of cases in 10,000, and those numbers we used for our list.
Before you start looking for your own country, bear in mind that autism is not a disease; it is more like a state of mind, a scale of symptoms as well as of talents, so every child with autism is actually a completely unique and special human being with a great ability to make extraordinary things. Now, let’s see what we have on the list of developed countries with lowest autism rates.
12. Greece – 30
Greece worries about the high number of affected children and rapidly increasing of them in last three decades. For this researching, they tested school children who live in Crete and only those who have diagnosed ASD, without accompanying diseases and disorders. The initial sample had 7 661 children. As many other countries, they found a connection between gender and age of the children with ASD, concluding that the disease is more common among boys than girls.
11. Denmark – 22,16
Many studies in Denmark, next on our list of developed countries with lowest autism rates have shown that autism is not connected to vaccines, but they have also shown that the autism rate is increasing. Let’s also say that the ways of diagnosing autism in this country have been changed as well as the age range observed, which might be the reason for the increase in these numbers, but since the 90’s when the first research was done, the number of children with autism has grown by 60%.
10. Finland – 20,7
We are continuing our list of developed countries with lowest autism rates with Finland that had struggled with the high rate of autism, mostly because of changing of the methods for diagnosing autism and new symptoms threatened as a part of autism. However, it seems that numbers decreased last few years, putting this country in the middle of the list of 12 developed countries with the lowest autism rates. Commending their schools with personal assistants in order to help children with autism, we point out the fact that Finland society supports inclusion of people with autism in every circumstances.
9. Iceland – 13,2
The statistics are different in this country, mostly because of various methods used for detecting autism and different age of children involved in the studies, but what is more important is the connection discovered between a high number of children suffering from autism and many other disorders and diseases, like epilepsy, mental disorder, and mental retardation. It has also been noticed that the autism rate in this country is increasing too.
8. Taiwan – 12,8
This is the country with medical and statistic deviations, mostly because the procedure of how to implement the research results is not clearly defined. Knowing that there are many provinces and underdeveloped parts in Taiwan, we can be sure that this number is correct. Although they only studied children aged 5-17, avoiding younger population which is mentioned as the most prone to autism, the study is done very seriously during the whole year and through all the centers which care about children and their health.
7. Israel – 10
Many studies in Israel have shown that autism is not connected to vaccines, but they have also shown that the autism rate is decreasing in this country. They found that autism in their country is connected with genetic, but also food, preservatives in processed food and some drugs. These claims might be the reason for the decrease of these numbers, due to changing the ways of processing food and prescribing the drugs, so it is good to say that in last 20 years since the first research was done, the number of children with autism has dropped by 40%.
6. Norway – 5,2
The low number of patients with autism and the new research show that Norway, number 6 on our list of developed countries with lowest autism rates does not have autism epidemic as many other countries on this list. The reason could be different methodology, where only children with visible and obvious symptoms of autism are taken into account due to the claim that only mental retardation can be considered as the main autism symptom in children, while others are secondary symptoms of this disease. However, many things have been changed in Norway in the past years, including food, medicines and lifestyle, as the project “Barn I Bergen” has shown.
5. The Netherlands – 5
The Netherlands, next in line on our list of developed countries with lowest autism rates has struggled with the shocking numbers of children with autism in the previous years, but they finally found a way to help people suffering from it. The country used help from other countries, mostly the UK, which has had the best results in the socialization of children with autism, and opened schools for all autistic children who can attend them. What proves that this effort has been successful is the fact that only 3,000 children with autism are in homeschooling, while all other children attend regular schools.
4. France – 4,91
We said that there is no precise global researching with the prevalence of children affected with ASD, but one of the biggest ones showed a big difference between countries in Europe and Asia. In that document, France is the fourth country on the list of 12 developed countries with lowest autism rates. This disorder is observed with great care followed by many special schools and educated assistant for 24/7 support and care.
3. Ireland – 4,3
The studies done in 2009 and 2012 showed that within the whole population, only 1.2% of the people in Ireland had autism, but when they studied children only, the number increased to 4.94%. Almost 59% of the children with some type of mental disorder have autism, and 36% cannot socialize in standard ways and must go to special schools. The studies which have cost more than $150,000 have also shown that 69% of parents are willing to participate in surveying, examining and doing a research about autism, its causes and consequences. Now let’s see what’s next ono our list of developed countries with lowest autism rates.
2. Italy – 4
The highest number of autistic people is among children aged 10 and 14, and among these are the most rent and severe symptoms of this disorder can be identified. As the other countries on this list of developed countries with lowest autism rates, they are trying to solve this problem by opening special schools and centers for helping and care, but the most important activity is helping to the families with adopted children, which many of them are among the children with autism. Printed guidelines are possible to find on the internet or hospitals and schools. However, the lowest rate of the people with the autism has put Italy in the first place of the list.
1. Germany – 1.9
After a study in Germany when a doctor who worked with autistic children claimed that autism diagnosis became a fashion in Germany and those doctors sometimes give this diagnosis because of that, we cannot but doubt whether this number is correct. In the last study, Germany claimed that there was no increase in the autism rate, so the percentage of autistic people is the lowest in this country. We cannot judge the country’s research methods, so according to the low percentage of patients with autism, we have put Germany in the first place on the list of 12 developed countries with lowest autism rates.