'It's not because of what a parent is doing': Global study finds autism is 80% more likely to be inherited

accreditation
"Everywhere we looked, in five different samples, what we saw was that genetic factors were most important."
"Everywhere we looked, in five different samples, what we saw was that genetic factors were most important."

Five countries, two million people, and 16 years of research has revealed what has already been repeated time and time: vaccines are not the leading cause of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 

The study was published this week via the American Medical Association's JAMA Psychiatry, with researchers confirming that "the heritability of ASD was estimated to be approximately 80%, indicating that the variation in ASD occurrence in the population is mostly owing to inherited genetic influences." 

"Everywhere we looked, in five different samples, what we saw was that genetic factors were most important," commented lead researcher Sven Sandin in a HuffPost interview. 

The Karolinska Institute researcher and his team say their findings have uncovered nothing new, but what is significant about this latest research is the magnitude.

"The researchers looked at the medical histories of more than two million children born in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Israel and Western Australia between 1998 and 2012. All were tracked until 16 years of age. Of the group, just over 22 000 went on to develop an autism spectrum disorder," reports Health24

The study also rules out "maternal effects" like weight and diet during pregnancy, and birth methods with data showing a 0.4% to 1.6% probability of maternal effects causing ASD. 

"On some level, I feel like we should feel comforted by [these findings]. Because it's almost like autism is explained ... it's not because of what a parent is doing right or wrong," Dr Wendy Sue Swanson, an American paediatrician, has said about the study. 


Also see: With mass measles outbreaks across the world in 2018 and 2019, the UN urges parents to not fall for anti-vaxx disinformation


But what about the other 20%? 

Sven admits that although wide-ranging, this study is just the tip of the iceberg. 

"We still do not know which specific genes contribute to risk. Also, there are numerous potential environmental factors that could be related to ASD, either directly or acting together with genes. We have, so far, only been scratching the surface."

Chat back:

Share your opinion with us, and we could publish your mail. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Sign up for Parent24's newsletters.

Read more:

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Eskom has considered continuous load shedding at Stage 2, instead of introducing it when the power system faces a crunch. What are your thoughts?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'm all for it - we're going to have power cuts regardless, so we might as well have some stability to better plan our lives
45% - 4207 votes
No thanks! I prefer having periods of no load shedding and we cannot normalise this crisis
55% - 5084 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.93
-1.8%
Rand - Pound
19.45
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.37
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.70
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.0%
Gold
1,643.66
0.0%
Silver
18.87
0.0%
Palladium
2,073.00
0.0%
Platinum
858.50
0.0%
Brent Crude
86.15
-5.0%
Top 40
57,110
-3.1%
All Share
63,417
-2.9%
Resource 10
56,319
-7.5%
Industrial 25
78,436
-1.2%
Financial 15
14,142
-1.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE