Get access

Autism spectrum disorder in Chinese populations: A brief review


  • Conflict of interest: There is no conflict of interests. No commercial company sponsored or played any role in the preparation of this article.
  • Author contribution: L. F., J. C. M. W. and C. L. performed the published work review and drafted and revised the manuscript; H. C., T.-S. L. and M. D. S. reviewed and revised the manuscript.


John Chee-Meng Wong MMed (Psychiatry) MSc (Child & Adolescent Mental Health), Department of Psychological Medicine, National University of Singapore, NUHS Tower Block, 1E Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119228, Singapore.

Tel: +65 6772 3481

Fax: +65 6777 2191



This review summarizes the published work on the prevalence and incidence rates of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Chinese populations. The authors searched MEDLINE, Web of Science and the PsycINFO database and identified seven studies that were published in the English language. In mainland China, Li and colleagues reported an autism prevalence rate of 2.38/10,000 but admitted the possibility of underestimation. A higher prevalence of 11/10,000 was reported by Zhang and Ji based on a survey that was conducted in Tianjin, China. In Taiwan, Chien and colleagues reported that the cumulative prevalence of ASD increased from 1.79 to 28.72/10,000 from 1996 to 2005 and the annual incidence rate increased from 0.91 to 4.41/10,000 per year from 1997 to 2005. Another study based on the Taiwan national health insurance database reported a high prevalence rate of 122.8/10,000 for the year 2007. Two studies based on the Taiwan national disability registry data reported an increasing trend of ASD for the period 2000–2007 and 2004–2010, respectively. In Hong Kong, Wong and colleagues estimated that the incidence of ASD was 5.49/10,000 and the average prevalence over the 1986–2005 period was 16.1/10,000. We identified 12 studies through the searching of Chinese databases. The prevalences among these studies varied from 2.8 to 29.5/10,000. While existing data appear to suggest, it remains unclear whether there is a true rise in the prevalence of ASD in ethnic Chinese population across geographic sites. More collaborative research on this topic should be conducted in the future.