Equality and Justice
For People With Disabilities

New Survey Highlights Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in Adults


Published on July 13, 2017

Natasha Rodrigues


A recent survey of 541 Canadians and Americans living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) focuses on how the disorder affects rates of illness in adults. The disorder results from alcohol exposure in the womb, causing irreversible developmental issues.


The findings of the survey were presented early March 2017 in Vancouver at a conference hosted by the University of British Columbia.


Increased risk of illness compared to general population


Including over 260 questions, the survey covered conditions in 25 areas including cardiovascular and autoimmune disease, hearing, and dementia.


The findings suggest that people with FASD experience health issues at a far higher rate than the general population – between two and 100 times higher.


While around five to eight per cent of the general population suffers from various autoimmune diseases, the survey found that they impact 29.5 per cent of adults with FASD. Similarly, early onset dementia (before the age of 65) was found to impact survey participants 104 times more than the general population.


Premature development of diseases often goes unnoticed


Dementia is not the only disease affecting adults with FASD at an earlier age – hearing loss is also reported. Myles Himmelreich, one of the survey’s authors, said that the premature onset of diseases may make diagnosis more challenging. Untreated and undiagnosed diseases can have serious long-term impacts.


The survey is co-authored by three individuals living with FASD. The goal of their survey is to encourage discussion about the disorder within the medical community. By increasing awareness in this way, doctors will better understand how diseases may affect FASD patients differently.


In a 2015 report, the government of Ontario estimated that around 1% of the population has FASD, and that this cost Canada approximately 1.8 billion in 2013. For more information about Ontario’s 2015 report, please visit http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/specialneeds/fasd.aspx.