More autism in South Korea?

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Autism may occur more frequently in South Korean children than among those in the U.S., according to a new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Led by Yale University’s Dr. Young-Shin Kim, the study, which is the first to estimate autism incidence in South Korea, surveyed the parents of 55,000 children aged seven to twelve in the city of Goyang and followed up with those considered at risk in order to confirm a diagnosis. From their findings Dr. Kim and colleagues estimate that one in 38 South Korean children (2.64%) may have autism, which is more than twice as high as the estimated one-percent incidence rate found in U.S. and European population studies.

CDC epidemiologist Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, though, notes that while the agency expresses concern about the elevated incidence in South Korea, “We have to bear in mind that they are using a different methodology. Using a different methodology gives you different estimates.”

We don’t know yet what causes autism, but as ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross points out, “Studying different populations, such as South Korean children, may help to give us a clue as to the genetic and other types of triggers of autism.”