What Percent Has Autism Increased In The Past 100 Years?

If you’re a mental health patient curious about the history of Autism, then this blog post is for you! Throughout the past century, there have been tremendous strides in understanding Autism spectrum disorders and figuring out how to best treat them. In particular, over the last 100 years, we’ve seen an increase in the prevalence of autism throughout society – but what exactly does that mean? How much has it increased? And why are rates increasing so quickly? All these questions (and more!) will be answered in today’s deep dive into exploring how much has changed since 1920. So keep reading if you want to understand why and how autism is moving into the mainstream discussion now more than ever before.

The Prevalence of Autism in the Past Century:

The earliest diagnosis of autism can trace its roots back to the early 1920s when a Swiss psychiatrist named Eugen Bleaker coined the term “autism”. At that time, it was believed that only 1 in 10,000 children had this condition. But as awareness and understanding grew over time, so did our knowledge of autism and its prevalence.

By the 1990s, studies showed that 1 in 500 children had an autism diagnosis. This number continued to rise over the years, reaching 1 in 68 today. By comparison, recent estimates suggest that around 1 in 40 people are affected by autism spectrum disorder worldwide. This dramatic increase can be attributed to a combination of factors, such as the broadening of diagnostic criteria and better availability of services.

Identifying Autism and Defining its Symptoms:

Over the past century, our understanding of autism has evolved significantly. In the early days, doctors put most of their emphasis on behavioral features and symptoms such as a lack of eye contact, repetitive behavior, and difficulty socializing. However, this view was limited and didn’t capture the wide range of complexities associated with autism.

In the 1990s, more comprehensive diagnostic criteria were developed. This included better assessment tools and a broader range of symptoms that could be used to identify autism spectrum disorder in individuals. Some of these include impaired social interaction, communication deficits, restricted or repetitive behavior patterns, sensory sensitivities, and motor difficulties.

Today, doctors have an even better understanding of what autism looks like and how it affects individuals. As a result, they are better equipped to diagnose and treat autism spectrum disorder in an effective way. This is why rates of diagnosis have increased so dramatically in the last century – but it’s also important to remember that there’s still a long way to go.

What Factors Contribute to the Increase in Autism Rates?

While the development of better diagnostic criteria is a major factor in the increase in autism rates, there are other factors at play as well. For one thing, environmental factors like air and water pollution have been linked to an increased risk for autism spectrum disorder.

In addition, genetics can also play a role. Studies suggest that certain genes may make an individual more vulnerable to developing autism, while other genes may offer some protection. Furthermore, recent research has shown that epigenetic changes can be passed down from one generation to the next, which could explain why autism is becoming more and more common in modern society.

Finally, better awareness of autism spectrum disorder has also contributed to the rise in rates. This has made it easier for individuals to identify symptoms and receive a diagnosis, which ultimately leads to better treatment options and improved quality of life.

Overall, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder is increasing – but so is our understanding of how to diagnose and manage it. With more research and better awareness, we can continue to make progress in our understanding and treatment of autism.


In conclusion, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has increased significantly over the past century due to a combination of factors such as improved diagnostic criteria and greater awareness. This has enabled us to better identify, diagnose, and treat those with autism spectrum disorder, leading to improved quality of life for those affected. With further research and better understanding, we can continue to make progress in our understanding of autism spectrum disorder and its effects on individuals.

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