Life, Autism, And The Pursuit Of Better Health

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In the intricate tapestry of life with autism, the pursuit of better health becomes a compelling journey. Unravel the nuances, challenges, and victories that shape the path towards improved well-being. Join me as we navigate the unique intersection of life, autism, and the quest for a healthier tomorrow.

What is your life expectancy?

How Long Does a Person with Autism Live? I’ve been googling a lot about autism, and this is a question that comes up in ‘what others are searching for’ almost every time I do a search, so it must be an incredibly common concern among the general population. I’ve seen that search for a long time, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I clicked on it and was completely astonished.

16 years, that’s how much shorter the expected lifespan is for someone with autism. The thought is staggering; I could have thought it might be one or two years shorter on average, as I’m aware that many with autism struggle, leading to more suicides. But what is behind this too significant difference? The risk of dying by suicide, however, is not significantly higher than average. Looking at people with autism, it’s about 2 people per 100,000 who take their lives, while the national average is about 1 person per 100,000. Twice as common, in other words, but not enough to account for 16 years. There must be more reasons behind this. If you have an intellectual disability, it naturally affects your lifespan significantly. Statistically, your lifespan will suddenly be 30 years shorter. Now we’re entering an area where it becomes easier to understand, as you probably have a lower standard of living, have more difficulty getting the right help in healthcare. Two areas that are statistically established and known to lead to shorter lifespans. I, with my own experiences of healthcare, also suspect that we are treated unfairly, as one must be mentally strong and able to fight for one’s rights in today’s healthcare. It’s nothing that happens automatically. I’ve long said, somewhat jokingly and somewhat seriously, ‘you have to be healthy to be sick in Sweden.’ If you don’t have energy, knowledge, and often lack help, it’s difficult to get the right and good care in Sweden.

But what about if you don’t have an intellectual disability? 12 years shorter lifespan. Yes, that’s right; the risk of dying from epilepsy or pneumonia is slightly elevated, but that’s not the whole truth. However, the risk of suicide suddenly becomes 10 times higher than average. That tells me something; mental health problems are probably much more significant than one might think. Now you don’t just die from suicide if you’re mentally unwell; I know from personal experience that it’s difficult to take care of yourself when you’re mentally unwell.

A risky lifestyle?

It can range from poor personal hygiene to the abuse of various substances. About a year after I got my diagnosis, I received a voucher from “LSS” for dental care. When I mentioned it to a colleague who also has autism, he explained it very well. ‘Well, it’s actually obvious; it’s known that people often have poor oral health when they have autism, and it ultimately leads to high costs for society. Oral health affects your overall health in a very tangible way.’ It was an eye-opener for me; I have poor oral health, but I’ve never thought about it that way. In the long run, it will, of course, lead to me having a worse life, and the risk of respiratory infections and cardiovascular diseases increases.

Now, that’s not the only factor contributing to a lower life expectancy. I am convinced that more risk behaviors can be found if one were to research the subject. What about traffic accidents? Do you experience more workplace accidents? Do you have more recreational accidents? Looking at myself, I have become aware that I have had a poorer risk analysis than my surroundings, an insight that has made me very alert and attentive to risk factors. How about stress, really? It is known to lead to poorer health. I believe that the stress level for people with autism is higher than average. It is at least something that is often mentioned. If you look at the average, what standard of living do you have with autism? If you live a life with lower income, you also statistically live a shorter life. These are also interesting topics to explore.

Now that I am aware that I am in the group with 12 years shorter life, what can I do? I believe that just being aware of the risk will prolong my life. Having experienced fighting for the right healthcare on several occasions for my relatives has given me some insight into what may be required to exercise one’s rights in society. My overall health has improved in recent years, and I hope it’s something I will be able to continue working on for the rest of my life. I think this is an important issue, and I hope you also find ways to live a longer and happier life.

The article from which I gather my facts today is here if you’re interested in delving into the subject: Register Study on Lifespan


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