Wednesday, July 28, 2010

lack of social relationships may shorten autistic's life expectancy

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.

16 comments:

Socrates said...

Doh, get up to speed, dude:

What about suicides?
Drug and Alcohol deaths?


It's nothing new people with learning disabilities have reduced lifespans.

Ari has social anxiety and a rich mummy.

I have Autism.

Oliver M Canby said...

You know Jonathan, Chris Mulligan thinks this too. That's why he has a program for young adults, ages 23 to 33, which is specifically designed for finding a long-term partner.

The author said...

Well me old pal me old beauty, it depends a lot on what you mean by social relationships, I have not spent my life seeking them out, yet (and I am sorry if it pains you) there are people in my locality who enjoy my company and miss me when I get reclusive as I mostly am.

I guess there are lots of things to shorten my life that I read about. Alcohol consumption for one, and then chronic lack of sleep, to read some of these reports, it's a wonder I am still alive at all.

I think there are other factors that will determine how long I have left. Some of them outside of my control and to do with economics and politics more than anything else.

Can't remember how old you are, shall we enter into a tontine?

jonathan said...

Author: I am 54, going to be 55 in about a month and a half. I think we are approximately the same age. I am not sure what a tontine is.

Socrates said...

It's a thing where you get together and form an Institute.

Oliver, you crack me up. If you can rant for hours on the net with me, Phil and other Strange Brews, you can do the same with girls.

Get the prelims out the way so when you meet you don't have to do the small talk thing.

But can the I love Reagan bit unless you're at a young Republicans' convention.

Anonymous said...

"...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..."

Yeah, I bet that's their answer to this situation too (for example, "he asked her to have sex with him and she said no!!! loneliness shortening his lifespan is that bitch's fault, not his autism's fault!!!").

"...Of course this is certainly not realistic and it is never going to happen..."

Sadly, except in communities where children are discouraged from playing with other children outside their extended families, younger adults are discouraged from dating instead of settling for the marriages their elders arrange, and older adults are discouraged from hiring outside their extended families. Some subcultures really do have these customs, and some of these even still enforce them!

People born into this situation who don't have social skills (or just think they're too good to use the social skills they do have) can still play with other children, can still have sex by getting married off (even if one's spouse still refuses to have marital sex, one has a better chance of still having sex with her or him against her or his will and getting away with that rape), can still get and keep jobs, and can still hold the power of hiring and firing over other people this way.

Kent Adams said...

Ari has social anxiety and a rich mummy.


I'm not sure that's true. I spent several hours with him surrounded by strangers, even some that were hostile to his message, but all I saw was someone that had no anxiety whatsoever. In fact, I think in this environment he had extraordinary social skills and dealt calmly and with great skill, far better than a typical person. Other than some awkward body language, mainly he was a bit stiff, there was no sign of what we think is atypical of the general population.

Socrates said...

So, umm... it's mild Dyspraxia and a rich mommy.

The author said...

A tontine is a sort of life insurance scheme where a number of people pay in and the last one standing claims.

So I'll be seeing you the other side of the end of Mayan long count perhaps :)

The author said...

Hi Kent, I reckon he'd have some anxiety if I were in his audience, everybody has :)

The author said...

Oh Dear Socrates,

I have no mummy or daddy but I do have cider :)

Oliver M Canby said...

Socrates, what the Hell are you talking about?

jonathan said...

Just ignore him, Oliver. Socrates is usually drunk when he writes these posts.

JediKnight2 said...

"Oliver, you crack me up. If you can rant for hours on the net with me, Phil and other Strange Brews, you can do the same with girls."

That's equivalent to saying if you can perform in theater, you can socialize with people. Those are TWO DIFFERENT SKILLS and the ones who perform well in theater who ARE on the 'spectrum' are the ones who do not have significant cognitive impairments, typically weren't late talkers, and typically perform in the CORNIEST plays.

Socrates said...

Please apply your analysis to these two scenarios:

one
Ollie: I think pot smokers should be hung.
Socrates: Lighten up, dude.

two
Ollie: I think pot smokers should be hung
Girl: Lighten up, dude.

Anonymous said...

"...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..."

Some social relations are better than loneliness. Some other ones are *worse*.

Has anyone studied the effects of autistic husbands on wives' life expectancies?

Even if marriage lengthens an autistic man's life expectancy, does it lengthen his wife's life expectancy - or shorten hers?