Autism can affect anyone, regardless of their background, race, sex, gender or where they are born, although inequalities can affect the likelihood of someone being diagnosed. 

Autism affects at least 1.1% of the UK population.

This number comes from a range of studies in children and adults. In adults, the numbers were estimated based on household surveys, but the researchers found similar figures to what had previously been found in children.

However many children and adults remain undiagnosed, so the figure is likely to be much greater

Diagnosis rates of autism vary from country to country. The difference in numbers comes down to how autism is counted, when it is counted, who is included and how they check the diagnosis. In the UK, a national count hasn’t taken place in a few years, but is due soon. It will be interesting to see the new figures and how they compare to those of other countries. 

The number of people being diagnosed is increasing, but this is likely because methods of diagnosing autism are improving, people are more aware and so are more likely to seek a diagnosis, and it is getting easier for people to access diagnosis. 

Gender and autism

Only around one on four people diagnosed with autism are female. However, for many years autism has been thought of mainly as a male condition. This is probably due to early research being largley conducted on males. 

Females are also less likely to display the traits or behaviours seen in males, which formed a core part of early autism diagnosis. This does not mean there is a 'male autism' and a 'female autism'; by including more girls and women in autism research we have  improved our understanding of autism, and are also much better at diagnosing a wider spectrum of autistic people. 

Between 2011 and 2016, 1000 people were referred to the Leeds Autism Diagnostic Service - of these people, 32% received a diagnosis of Autism and the diagnosis rate was the same for males and females.