Life expectancy – this is a tricky one… I have been in two minds as to whether to write about this. The last thing I want is for all us late-diagnosed wonderfully neurodivergent people to read this and assume that our days are numbered and we start looking out for the Grim Reaper at every turn!

I’ve decided that it’s actually a really important aspect of being neurodivergent to talk about, as it has the potential to change the outcome, radically. So, please do stick with me here, if you can.

Try as I might (and as a 54 year old, trust me when I say I’ve really tried) this is one area of research where I can find no evidence to contradict it. So, brace yourselves for these startling statistics – all of which are clickable so you can go to the source if you wish:

‘ADHD can reduce life expectancy by as much as 13 years’ ADDitude

‘Autistic adults died an average of 16 years younger than the general population’ The Independent 

‘People with autism or ADHD are more than two times likely to die early’ CNN

‘NHSE [National Health Service England] estimates mortality rate for autistic people is 51pc [percent] higher in a single year’ HSJ (Health Service Journal)

This last piece of startling research, does NOT include autistic people with learning disabilities. It’s all quite shocking, isn’t it?

There are a multitude of reasons for this. Many of which you will find in the articles themselves. There are some aspects that we can’t control. If we have co-occurring conditions, such as a heart defect or epilepsy, we can control that to the extent of looking after our health the best we can and attending all GP and hospital appointments, taking medications regularly etc.

That sounds straightforward but, actually, I’ve read a lot of posts on autistic community sites and one of the main problems the people have on those is that they cannot get the medical attention and support that they need in order to keep themselves healthy. I am no stranger to this. There are so many barriers to medical provision for us. Communication is so difficult, anxiety is so high – especially around those who may intimidate us by the mere fact of the power they have over our lives.

Autistic people have the highest unemployment rate of ANY DISABLED GROUP. Incredible! So we may have poverty and loneliness to contend with on top of everything else, and neither of these are conducive to good physical or mental health.

And that brings me to the saddest element of all. The suicide rate of autistic and ADHD people is high, compared with that of the general population. I don’t think I need to explain why this is the case. Life is challenging for us, every day.

We also have a higher chance of death by accident and a higher chance of dying from addictions.

So, the reason I wanted to go ahead and write this piece is because MOST of these premature causes of death can be prevented with interventions such as:

  1. Easier access to healthcare, including mental health services
  2. Greater respect for autism as a disability, as a society, through education – to help reduce our feelings of isolation and being misunderstood
  3. Easier access to State Benefits – less hoop jumping, less painful application processes, less ignorance on the part of those assessing our needs
  4. Greater employment opportunities – the UK Government claim to have autistic people’s improved access to work as one of the priorities at present – Google The Buckland Review, which is imminent

Please don’t be disheartened. My aim is to show that those of us who can find our ‘voices’ can make a difference – a big one. We do have the right to all of those things mentioned above that will keep us as healthy as we can possibly be. And those of us who feel able to demand them, should. I have family members and friends who are in their seventies and going strong – it’s not a lost cause at all. Please please don’t let that be the message you take from this. The message is that we can make it better and we can live longer. 🙂