There is an interesting new study put out recently by Brigham Young University that seems to demonstrate that social relationships or lack of social relationships can determine life expectancy and physical health just as much as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, etc. This study claimed to show that lack of social relations was equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, being an alcoholic, not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity.
I wonder how this bodes for persons with autism spectrum disorders such as myself whose opportunities for social interaction are quite limited. I wonder how this will affect my life expectancy and others who have autism.
As I have repeatedly tried to point out on autism's gadfly, the neurodiversity dictum "autism is not like cancer, does not need to be cured because it does not kill" has often been disproven by lower functioning autistics who are hit by cars, die in accidental drownings, get lost in snowstorms, etc.
This study that I have linked to may provide further ammo against the ND arguments. I would be interested in studying the question of whether an autistic person's lack of social relations would cause a shortening of their life expectancy or possibly increase the risk of other concomitant health problems such as stroke, heart attacks, etc.
Of course the first persons diagnosed with autism were not born until close to the mid 1930s so, this might be problematic in studying the question if anyone were ever interested in studying it. I know that some persons who believe in an autism epidemic believe the prevalence of autism among adults is much lower than that of persons born in the mid 1980s and later. Assessing the prevalence of autism in adults is problematic for a variety of reasons and it is beyond the scope of this post to discuss them. This might make the question of the effects that autistic's social impairments affect their health and longevity difficult to study. I would be curious how lack of friends, marriage etc. would impact the health and life expectancy of those with autism and similar problems. Of course such a study might not ever be done.
Joseph of the autism natural variation blog has made the very strong statement that autistics are half as likely to marry as their nonhandicapped peers. He bases this contention on one study that alleged that there was a 1% prevalence of autism among adults in the UK. This study had a myriad of methodological problems such as nonstandard use of assessments and in actually guestimates of how many persons with autism were out there. The prevalence of marriage of autistic people that Joseph cites was based on only 19 people. So if the population of the UK were around 10 million adults or more (probably more) Joseph is claiming that statistical inferences can be made from a sample consisting of not much more than .01% of its parent population. No I don't think so. So, no I don't believe that autistics are half as likely to marry as their neurotypical peers.
Of course the ND solution is acceptance. If only society would accept autistic people no matter how they behave, then they would have friends and lovers. Of course this is certainly not realistic and it is never going to happen
Ari Ne'eman has now been appointed to the IACC by the Obama administration in spite of the fact he has stated that he is opposed to all genetic research on autism and wishes to impose a moratorium on all genetic research.
However, I believe the BYU study may be yet another reason to try to use science, including genetic research, that might at some point in time to find treatments that will help autistic people and even possibly cure them. The lack of social opportunities for those of us on the spectrum may be killing us slowly.