The Disappearing Seasonality of Autism Conceptions in California

Mazumdar, Soumya; Liu, Ka-Yuet; Susser, Ezra S.; Bearman, Peter Shawn

Autism incidence and prevalence have increased dramatically in the last two decades. The autism caseload in California increased 600% between 1992 and 2006, yet there is little consensus as to the cause. Studying the seasonality of conceptions of children later diagnosed with autism may yield clues to potential etiological drivers. We searched for seasonality in conceptions of children later diagnosed with autism by applying a one-dimensional scan statistic with adaptive temporal windows on case and control population data from California for 1992 through 2000. We tested for potential confounding effects from known risk factors using logistic regression models. There is a consistent but decreasing seasonal pattern in the risk of conceiving a child later diagnosed with autism in November for the first half of the study period. Temporal clustering of autism conceptions is not an artifact of composition with respect to known risk factors for autism such as socio-economic status. There is some evidence of seasonality in the risk of conceiving a child later diagnosed with autism. Searches for environmental factors related to autism should allow for the possibility of risk factors or etiological drivers that are seasonally patterned and that appear and remain salient for a discrete number of years.

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Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics
Public Library of Science
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February 13, 2015