A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Investigation of COVID-19 Hospitalizations and Mortality Among Autistic People

Dewy Nijhof, Filip Sosenko, MacKay F. Daniel, Michael Fleming, Bhautesh Dinesh Jani, Jill Pell, Chris Hatton, Deborah Cairns, Angela Henderson, Laura McKernan Ward, Ewelina Rydzewska, Maria Gardani, Elliot Millington, Craig Melville

Research output: Working paperPreprint

Abstract / Description of output

Background Current evidence suggests the possibility that autistic people may be at more risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation, and mortality than the general population. Previous studies, however, are either limited in scale or do not investigate potential risk factors. Whilst many risk factors have been speculated to be responsible for severe COVID-19, this research has focused on general population samples.

Methods Using data-linkage and a whole-country population, this study modelled associations between autism and COVID-19 hospitalisation and mortality risk in adults, investigating a multitude of clinical and demographic risk factors.

Results Autistic adults had higher rates of hospitalisation, Standardised Incident Ratio 1.6 in 2020 and 1.3 in 2021, and mortality, Standardised Mortality Ratio 1.52 in 2020 and 1.34 in 2021, due to COVID-19 than the general population. In both populations, age, complex multimorbidity and vaccination status were the most significant predictors of COVID-19 hospitalisation and mortality. Effects of psychotropic medication varied by class.

Conclusions Although similar factors exhibited a positive association with heightened risk of severe COVID-19 in both the autistic and general populations, with comparable effect sizes, mortality rates were elevated among the autistic population as compared to the general population. Specifically, the presence of complex multimorbidity and classification of prescribed medications may emerge as particularly significant predictors of severe COVID-19 among individuals within the autistic population due to higher prevalence of complex multimorbidity in the autistic population and variability in the association between medication classes and severe COVID-19 between both populations, though further research is needed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2024


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