Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Prevalence and cumulative incidence of autism spectrum disorders and the patterns of co-occurring neurodevelopmental disorders in a total population sample of 5-year-old children.



Whether there is a true increase in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequency or not remains unclear. Additionally, the rates of co-existing neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) in a total population sample has not been fully examined before. Therefore, using a total population sample in Japan, we aimed to estimate the prevalence and cumulative incidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) annually, to determine whether there is a true increase in ASD prevalence by estimating the cumulative incidence of ASD annually, and to examine the rates of co-existing neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD).


In this cross-sectional sequential design study, all 5-year-old children in the catchment area underwent the screening annually from the year 2013-2016. Screen-positive children were invited to participate in a comprehensive assessment, including child and parent interview, behavioral observation, and cognitive and motor function testing. All cases were reviewed by a multidisciplinary research team.


Caregivers of 3954 children returned the screening, among which 559 children underwent the assessment with 87 children receiving an ASD diagnosis. Adjusted ASD prevalence was 3.22% (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.66-3.76%). The male to female ratio of the crude prevalence was 2.2:1. The cumulative incidence of ASD up to 5 years of age for the total study years was 1.31% (95% CI 1.00-1.62%). A generalized linear model revealed no significant linear trends in 5-year cumulative incidence over the study years. Only 11.5% of children had ASD alone; the remaining 88.5% were found to have at least one co-existing NDD.


Modest sample size for a total population study.


Our findings demonstrate the stability of the 5-year cumulative incidence of ASD, implying no true rise in ASD incident cases over the 4-year study period in the study catchment area. High rates of co-existing NDDs reflect the importance of investigating broad developmental challenges in children with ASD.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View