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Prevalence of Comorbidities in Middle-Aged and Older Adults Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Zik, Cary L (2022) Prevalence of Comorbidities in Middle-Aged and Older Adults Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition that has been recognized by the medical community for decades. However, the evolution of the diagnosis and lack of research regarding how ASD affects aging has created gaps in our understanding of ASD across the person’s lifespan. In addition, the complexities and variations of ASD present challenges to the application of outcomes of research. This study examined electronic health records (EHR) of community-dwelling residents aged forty and over who sought care at UPMC facilities from January 1st, 2011, to December 31st, 2019. This study seeks to determine the prevalence of certain medical and neuropsychiatric disorders in patients with an ASD diagnosis and those without. Literature reviews have shown that this approach has been used in research prior to this study. While there is some agreement about certain health conditions being more prevalent in those with ASD, there are also conflicting results regarding others (such as whether substance abuse disorders disproportionately affect those with ASD). In our research, 1,995 controls were age and gender matched for comparison, with similar years for medical follow-up, using inverse probability weighting to achieve balance between the groups. The key findings from our EHR analysis were that while the control group was more likely to experience many of the physiological and cognitive disorders, there were statistically significant results that found those with ASD are more likely to develop anxiety, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Our findings also suggest there is no significant difference in rates of mortality between the ASD and control populations. We also completed two qualitative interviews with a support group leader and an individual with ASD to discuss barriers to care for those with ASD. The common themes of those interviews were the importance of utilizing technology to make interacting with medical providers more accessible and the need to increase the number of providers who are knowledgeable in providing care specifically tailored to the needs of individuals on the spectrum.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Zik, Cary LCLZ20@pitt.eduCLZ20
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorAlbert, Steven Msmalbert@pitt.edusmalbert
Committee MemberBear, Todd Mtobst2@pitt.edutobst2
Committee MemberHanden, Benjamin Lbhanden@pitt.edubhanden
Date: 30 August 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 4 February 2022
Approval Date: 30 August 2022
Submission Date: 4 August 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 49
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Public Health > Behavioral and Community Health Sciences
Degree: MPH - Master of Public Health
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Aging, Alzheimer's Disease (AD), Schizophrenia, Comorbidities
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2022 13:13
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2022 13:13


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