Autism is one of those diagnoses that every parent dreads. But even though I know it’s on the rise in the US, I wondered about the countries with the lowest autism rates and autism rates by country were and what we might be able to learn from that.
I decided to research it, and here’s what I found out.
Poland has the absolute lowest rate of autism in the world, followed closely by Taiwan. The next countries with low autism rates, while having significantly higher rates than those 2, include China, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. In the US, the rate of autism is 1 in 59, which ranks as #16 worldwide.
Surprisingly, the autism rates by country are quite varied. While you can see the entire list at the bottom of this article, we’ll also be exploring how well different countries report instances of autism, and we’ll hear from experts that interpret the data and statistics.
We don’t have all the answers by any means, but we do know the questions. And this post is steering clear of conspiracy theories and just focusing on facts.
So today, we’ll be reviewing the countries with lowest autism rates to see if there are any correlations that could help shed some light on this epidemic.
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What is autism?
Did you know that we diagnose #Autism and Learning Disabilities in students of all ages? If you think your child may have #ASD or an LD, check out this article “What is autism spectrum disorder?” https://t.co/m6T2djfNo5 pic.twitter.com/EcKRXtRb3C
— JVS Toronto (@JVSToronto) October 12, 2018
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a wide spectrum of symptoms and behavior patterns.
While it is a worldwide epidemic, it certainly hits some countries harder than others. Thus, we’re reviewing the countries with lowest autism rates.
Often parents and teachers will notice some, but not likely all, of the following symptoms:
- inability to read social cues
- sensory issues (often noted by covering their ears)
- repetitive motor behaviors (such as hand flapping)
- repeat behaviors
- struggles with speech
- being almost completely non-verbal
While many people on the autism spectrum do posses outstanding learning and comprehension skills, over 50% of autistic people have an IQ of under 70. An I.Q between 90 and 110 is considered average.
30% of autistic children are considered non-verbal, meaning they speak very little or in some cases not at all.
About 20% of children on the autism spectrum also have epilepsy.
What is the current autism rate?
In the United States, according to the CDC, 1 in 59 children is on the autism spectrum as of a 2006 survey.
More recent studies indicate a rate of 1 in 45. But in some of the countries with lowest autism rates, that number can be as low as 1 in 3,333 (Poland).
Across the globe, the World Health Organization puts that figure at 1 in 160. The CDC has also seen a 15% increase in autism spectrum disorder diagnosis over the past 2 years.
Since 2004, they have found an incredible 181% increase through 2018.
Check out even more shocking Autism Statistics Worldwide (click to read on my site) in a highly shared post I published earlier.
Is autism on the rise worldwide?
Yes is the short answer.
It’s worth noting that researchers haven’t been tracking autism for decades. In fact, serious tracking didn’t start until 2000. It’s also worth noting that unlike many other conditions, there isn’t a blood test or scan that can detect autism. So we are relying 100% on doctors and researchers to objectively agree on criteria and diagnose in a consistent manner.
That is to say, it’s probably not very consistent compared to tracking of other diseases and conditions.
That being said, it’s undeniable that autism IS on the rise. The World Health Organization puts the autism rates by country at 1 in 160. The CDC has noted a 15% increase in autism spectrum disorder diagnosis over the past 2 years and a whopping 181% increase from 2004 to 2018.
How many children in the world have autism?
Going back to the CDC, between 1-2% of the world’s population is on the autism spectrum.
With about 7.5 billion people on the planet, that would have between 75 million and 150 million people being on the autism spectrum.
Since about 26% of the world’s population is age 15 and under, that would mean between 20 and 40 million kids with autism in the world.
What country has highest rate of autism?
Hong Kong has the highest rate of autism, coming in at a shocking rate of 1 in 27 people!
Of course, it’s worth repeating that not every country reports autism the same way as others, and there could be a margin of error in comparing the results of 2 different countries.
That being said, it’s undeniable that Hong Kong is the leader in autism rates, since the country with the best rate, Poland, has a rate of 1 in 3,333 people, a 123.5% difference!
Can you prevent autism?
There is not a cure for autism.
That being said, there are a lot of opinions on the causes of autism and ways of prevention.
Autism.com states that “one of the best things (an expectant mother) can do is give herself six months or even a year to improve her diet and make better lifestyle choices (before becoming pregnant).
She should consume organically grown grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and lean sources of protein.
Laying the foundation by putting herself in optimal shape prior to conceiving will go a long way in minimizing the chance of miscarriage, or developing other complications of pregnancy and delivery.”
They go on to say that “reducing or eliminating the white foods (sugar, white bread, pasta, pizza, bagels), chemical preservatives and processed foods” may help prevent autism.
Lastly, they also recommend improving the gut bacteria which I get into more below.
What is the best therapy for autism?
Brian Udell, MD, is the director of the Child Development Center of America.
He claims that autism is often accompanied by gastrointestinal conditions.
People on the autism spectrum disorder often have:
- chronic diarrhea
- abdominal discomfort
- other nutritional issues
- food allergies
There is currently no cure for autism or specifically recommended treatment.
However, removing specific food items from the diet and ensuring healthy gut bacteria have been shown to improve the symptoms of autism.
A recent study published by the National Institutes of Health found that a gluten-free diet was effective “in reducing some autism symptoms, and 2 groups of investigators also reported improvement in nonverbal cognition.”
Other parents have tried removing highly allergic food items such as eggs, fish, nuts, dairy, and soy. The best strategy is to eliminate all items in question from the diet.
Then slowly reintroduce them 1 at a time to see the effects.
Healthy eating for all children (click to read my BEST tips) is essential, but this is even more true for kids with autism.
Going back to Brian Udell, MD, he recommends avoiding:
- heavily processed foods
- fast food
- artificial colors and flavors
- hormones & antibiotics in meat and dairy
He also recommends omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation and a probiotic with 1.5 to 4 billion bacterial parts to improve gastrointestinal health.
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The crucial role Vitamin D deficiency might play with autism
Yet another recent study published by the National Institutes of Health found a link between autism and deficiency in Vitamin D.
They found that “Neonatal (ie: newborns) vitamin D status was significantly associated with the risk of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and intellectual disability.”
Therefore it stands to reason that both a prenatal vitamin for pregnant women as well as a vitamin D supplement for children might be a good idea. Always check with your doctor first though.
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It also contains probiotics which may also play a crucial role in the prevention of autism.
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So now let’s review the . . .
15 Countries with Lowest Autism Rates That May Surprise You
For the purposes of this list and also based on the countries that provide data, this list of countries with lowest autism rates may be leaving out some 3rd world countries which don’t have accurate means of reporting.
See bottom of the page for credits on data on these autism rates by country.
1. Poland – 1 child for every 3,333
2. Taiwan – 1 child for every 2,000
3. China – 1 child for every 435
4. Germany – 1 child for every 263
5. Netherlands – 1 child for every 208
6. Norway – 1 child for every 196
7. Finland – 1 child for every 185
8. Estonia – 1 child for every 167
9. Belgium – 1 child for every 167
10. Singapore – 1 child for every 149
11. Denmark – 1 child for every 145
12. Canada – 1 child for every 94
13. Switzerland – 1 child for every 69
14. Ireland – 1 child for every 65
15. Japan – 1 child for every 55
The United States would have come in #16 (1 in 45) on this list of countries with lowest autism rates had we gone that high.
It’s also interesting to note that not only did South Korea not make the list of countries with lowest autism rates, but, in fact, has one of the highest rates of autism in the world, despite it being highly stigmatized there.
Also interesting is that while China as a whole has a low rate of autism, Hong Kong, arguably the most developed and western city in China, has the highest rate of autism in the world.
While Poland is certainly much lower than many, there probably aren’t any countries with no autism.
— Spectrum (@Spectrum) April 14, 2017
What are the immediate takeaways from this list of countries with lowest autism rates?
- Asian countries dominate the list
- Northern European countries also dominate the list
- Generally speaking, the more developed a country, the higher the rate of autism (which could also be tied to better reporting)
- For conspiracy buffs, it’s interesting to note that Poland, the country with the lowest rates of autism, does, in fact, have mandatory vaccinations
- That being said, Poland only mandates 11 vaccines, spread out over 20 shots from birth through 7 months of age
- Compare that the CDCs recommended 15 vaccines in the US spread out over 20 shots from birth through 6 months
- From a dietary standpoint, it’s interesting to note that the typical Polish meals are spread out over 5 meals instead of 3 with the largest meal (what they call dinner) being around 2pm
- Europe and parts of Asia also take a much stronger stance against the use of added growth hormones in meat and dairy than The US
- There are not any countries with no autism
But in the end, there is not conclusive evidence thus far on exactly why some countries have significantly lower rates of autism than others.
Sensational Brain (click to learn more on their site) is an outstanding resource for parents, educators, and children.
They provide both free and paid tools to help kids with sensory processing disorders including autism as well as ADHD and other conditions.
Were you surprised with the countries with lowest autism rates?
In this post, we took a deep look into the world of autism.
We looked at what autism spectrum disorder is. We looked at autism rates by country and how they have increased and we also touched on some therapies designed to help support children diagnosed with autism.
Specifically, though, we looked at the countries with lowest autism rates, and autism rates by country, and we avoided conspiracy theories and stuck to proven data.
In the world of autism, we are far from having all the answers, but we can certainly ask the questions and have all the data and facts can help us to ask better questions.
I am not a parent of autistic kids but my wife is a teacher who specializes in working with autistic kids and in my 9 to 5 working with kids, I do see a number of kids on the autism spectrum.
Thus, while not a complete expert, I am closely connected to that world.
Ready to dive in deeper? Check out all the Autism Statistics Worldwide (click to read on my site).
I am not a doctor or a health professional. This post, like all my posts, is based on my research, opinions, and observations. If you need medical or professional advice you should seek out a qualified professional in your area.
Data sources for top 15 autism rates by country data: