Behind the StatisticsEpidemics aren’t genetic; let’s take a look behind the statistics of autism, ADHD, allergies, asthma, mental health diagnoses and more.

There is a vast body of medical literature indicating that the increased rates of everything from autism to asthma are due to true increases in disease, not just better diagnosis or better patient capture.

This epidemic is real.

The rates of these disorders are increasing so quickly that the causes cannot be due solely to genes.

The environment plays a critical role in modulating gene expression and recent developments in the field of epigenetics tell us that our DNA is being “turned on and off” by our environmental exposures.

“Genetics load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger.”

A Look Behind the Statistics

A look behind the statistics reflects an epidemic of chronic inflammatory conditions and developmental delays in the U.S. that is staggering and points to the impact of the environment on our health:

  • Asthma affects 1 in 8 children, and as many as 1 in 6 African American children. Asthma costs the U.S. $56 billion per year.[i]
  • One in 3 American children is either overweight or obese; obesity-related medical costs account for $190 billion or 21% of medical spending in the United States; childhood obesity carries a price tag of $14 billion a year in direct medical costs.[ii]
  • One in 5 children entering kindergarten carries a mental health diagnosis.[iii]
  • One in 30 children is diagnosed with pediatric depression. The U.S. spends $83 billion a year on depression.
  • It is estimated that at least 10% of American children have ADD/ADHD (one-in-five boys) and 17% are labeled as “learning disabled.” ADHD is estimated to cost the US upwards of $100 billion per year.
  • Rates of autism have risen over the last few decades from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 68 children. Autism costs the U.S. $268 billion per year with the potential to reach $1 trillion by 2025.[iv] What we pay to manage autism in this country on an annual basis is more money than has been spent on the entire NASA program since its inception in 1971. Autism costs the US more than the combined budgets of the Department of Health and Human Services ($73.7 billion), the Department of Education ($68.6 billion), the Department of Housing and Urban Development ($32.6 billion), and the Department of Agriculture ($21.5 billion).
  • Nearly 2.5% of U.S. children may have an allergy to peanuts.[v]
  • A study conducted at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found: of > 11 million hospitalization records examined of patients < 20 years old there was a 49% increase from 2000 to 2009 in Crohn’s disease discharges and a 71% increase in ulcerative colitis discharges

What’s more, there are many anecdotal reports of conditions/symptoms that aren’t well tracked also increasing dramatically. Some of these conditions/symptoms include:

  • Eosinophilic esophagitis
  • Sensory Processing/Integration Disorder
  • Behavioral/mood disorders (bipolar/depression/anxiety)
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Loose stools/diarrhea
  • Chronic ear infections, sinus infections, urinary tract infections
  • Constipation/going several days without a bowel movement
  • Red cheeks/ears after eating
  • Self-limiting feeding (e.g., only eating a few white foods)
  • Excessive tantruming/defiance
  • Chronic mouth breathing/swollen glands
  • Delays in walking/talking/crawling
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviors/repetitive behaviors/aggressive behaviors
  • Eczema, skin rashes
  • Sensory issues: Sensitivity/aversion to light, sound, textures

A sampling of the research pointing to an epidemic of unprecendented proportions:

Perrin JM, Bloom SR, Gortmaker SL. The increase of childhood chronic conditions in the United States. JAMA. 2007;297(24):2755-9.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obesity Prevalence

Mary Jo Stanley, RN MS, “Assessing Prevalence of Emotional and Behavioral Problems in Suspended Middle School Students,” The Journal of School Nursing 22 (2006): 40-47

“Rx for Behavior Problems in Pre-K,” Preschool Matters, A publication of the National Institute for Early Education Research 5 (November/December 2007).

Walter S. Gilliam, PhD, “Prekindergarteners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State Prekindergarten Programs,” Foundation for Child Development Policy Brief, Series No. 3 (May 2005).

Cathy Huanqing Qi et al., “Behavior Problems of Preschool Children From Low-Income Families: Review of the Literature,” Topics in Early Childhood Special Education 162 (June 2005).

National Center for Health Statistics, The CDC, Asthma Prevalence

American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology

The American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, “Asthma Uncontrolled in 85% of Inner City Students,” American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Online (July 10, 2006) (accessed August 15, 2009).

The Centers for Disease Control, NCHS Data Brief No. 10,by Amy M. Branum et al., The CDC, National Center for Health Statistics (October 2007).

Elizabeth Lipski, Digestive Wellness (New York: McGraw Hill, 2004) 90.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “Food Allergy: Report of the NIH Expert Panel on Food Allergy Research,” NIH (accessed August 3, 2009).

The Centers for Disease Control, NCHS Data Brief No. 10,by Amy M. Branum et al., The CDC, National Center for Health Statistics (October 2007).

Phil Lieberman, MD and John A. Anderson, MD, Allergic Diseases (Totowa, NJ: Human Press, 2007), 272.

The Centers for Disease Control, “QuickStats: Percentage of Children Aged 5-17 Years Ever Having Diagnoses of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Learning Disability (LD) by Sex and Diagnosis,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly 54, no. 43(November 2005): 1107 (accessed September 9, 2009).

Lynn Waterhouse, “Autism Overflows: Increasing Prevalence and Proliferating Theories,” Neuropsychology Review 18 (2008) 273-286.

Sue Reid,” One child in 60 ‘suffers from a form of autism,” The Daily Mail Online

Autism Research Institute, “Recently Released Data from the National Survey of Children’s Health Reports that Autism Now Affects 1% of Children and is More Common Than Children’s Cancer, Diabetes, and AIDS combined,” Reuters, August 3, 2009 (accessed August 3, 2009).

Autism Research Institute, ARI Calls for Immediate Federal Response to New Autism Figures – Oct. ’09 (October 2009) (accessed October 6, 2009).

National Institutes of Mental Health, ADHD Booklet (2003) (accessed March 11, 2009); William E. Pelham PhD, et al., “The Economic Impact of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents,” Ambulatory Pediatrics (January/February 2007): 1.

Melissa A Brotman et al., “Prevalence, clinical correlates, and longitudinal course of severe mood dysregulation in children,” Biological Psychiatry 60, no. 9 (2006): 991-997.

Sutton Hamilton et al., “Oppositional Defiant Disorder,” American Family Physician, 78, no. 7 (October 2008): 861-866.

Natasha Campbell McBride, “GAPS, the Gut and Psychology Syndrome” (lecture, The Weston A. Price Foundation, Wise Traditions Conference, San Francisco, CA, November 8, 2008).

Carlos Blanco MD et al., “Mental Health of College Students and Their Non–College-Attending Peers: Results From the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions,” Archives of General Psychiatry 65, no. 12 (2008): 1429-1437.

Tanya E. Froehlich, MD et al., “Prevalence, Recognition, and Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in a National Sample of US Children,” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 161, no. 9 (2007): 857-864.

William E. Pelham PhD, et al., “The Economic Impact of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents,” Ambulatory Pediatrics (January/February 2007).

Donna Jackson Nakazawa, The Autoimmune Epidemic (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008).

Jakobsen, “Incidence of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease in Danish children: Still rising or leveling out?” Journal of Crohn’s & Colitis 2 (June 2008): 152-157; Johan van Limbergen et al., “A detailed investigation into epidemiological risk factors for childhood onset inflammatory bowel disease in Scotland,” Gastroenterology 134, no. 4 (2008): A189.

William E. Pelham PhD, et al., “The Economic Impact of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents,” Ambulatory Pediatrics (January/February 2007).

The Autism Society of America, “Facts and Statistics

Chris Plauché Johnson, MD et al., “Identification and Evaluation of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders,” Pediatrics 120, no. 5 (November 2007).

PT Shattuck, “The Contribution of Diagnostic Substitution to the Growing Administrative Prevalence of Autism in US Special Education,” Pediatrics 117, no. 4 (April 2006): 1028-1037.

Jacquelyn Bertrand, “Prevalence of Autism in a United States Population: The Brick Township, New Jersey, Investigation” Pediatrics 108, no. 5 (November 2001): 1155-116;

Irva Hertz-Picciotto and Lora Delwiche, “The Rise in Autism and the Role of Age at Diagnosis,” Epidemiology 20, no. 1 (January 2009): 84-90.

Mark Blaxill, “What’s Going On? The Question of Time Trends in Autism,” Public Health Reports 119, no. 5 (November 2004): 536 -352.

Fighting Autism, Austin, TX

Bruce P. Lanphear et al., “Increasing Prevalence of Recurrent Otitis Media Among Children in the United States,” Pediatrics 99, no. 3 (March 1997): e1.