Mental health–related hospitalizations among adolescents and emerging adults with autism in the United States: A retrospective, cross-sectional analysis of national hospital discharge data

Darcy Jones McMaughan, Sara Imanpour, Abigail Mulcahy, Jennifer Jones, Michael M. Criss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Autistic adolescents and emerging adults experience high rates of mental health conditions—a risk factor for hospitalization. Using nationally representative data from the 2016 HCUP KID, we estimated the prevalence and costs of mental health–related hospitalizations for autistic adolescents and emerging adults in the United States. Hospital discharges for ages 10–20 years (n = 1,346,849) were analyzed using survey-adjusted logistic regression and general linear modeling. Mental health–related hospitalizations among autistic young people (n = 14,368) were mostly for neurodevelopmental, disruptive, depressive, and bipolar disorders. Mental health–related hospitalizations were almost 11 times more likely (OR = 10.98, 95% CI = 10.00–12.00) for autistic youth compared youth with complex and chronic conditions, and two times (OR = 2.03, 95% CI = 1.88–2.19) more likely compared to population controls. Predicted mean service delivery costs of mental health–related hospitalizations for autistic adolescents and emerging adults were US$7,401.23 per stay, resulting in US$106 million in estimated total service delivery costs in 2016. Mental health–related hospitalizations can indicate poor quality care, be traumatic, and increase suicide risk. Community mental health care for autistic young people is needed. Lay abstract: Autistic young people are more likely to have mental health conditions, like depression and bipolar disorder, than people without autism. These mental health issues sometimes lead to hospitalizations, which can be expensive and traumatic. Because of this, we wanted to understand mental health–related hospitalizations among autistic young people aged 10–20. We found that the main mental health reasons for the hospitalization of autistic young people were neurodevelopmental, disruptive, depressive, and bipolar disorders. These hospitalizations cost an average of US$7401.23 per stay, for a total of US$106 million in service delivery costs in 2016. Mental health–related hospitalizations were compared between young people with autism, young people with complex and chronic conditions, and young people with no chronic conditions. Autistic young people were almost 11 times more likely to be hospitalized for mental health reasons than young people with complex and chronic conditions, and two times more likely than young people with no complex and chronic conditions. We believe the United States needs better community-based mental health care for young people with autism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAutism
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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