There is no direct link between religiosity and autism, a new study finds.
The study, published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that people who do not follow a religious tradition, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, are less likely to have autism spectrum disorders, but that these findings don’t prove that religion causes autism.
In the study, researchers looked at the rates of autism spectrum conditions and autism diagnoses among adults with an estimated 10,000 years of information on the population.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted every three years, between 1988 and 2016.
They analyzed the age of participants, gender and race and measured their self-reported religious belief.
The researchers then looked at participants’ autism diagnoses.
They also looked at self-reports of their own symptoms of autism and the extent to which they believed they were affected by the condition.
While religious belief did not have a significant effect on the rate of autism diagnoses, the researchers found that individuals who reported having been diagnosed with autism were more likely to report religious belief, as well as having higher levels of social support.
The findings suggest that people with more social support, but less religious belief were more at risk of developing autism.
People with more religious belief also had lower rates of being diagnosed with other mental health disorders.
The results of the study do not suggest that religious belief causes autism or that it should be discouraged.
The authors say the findings are an interesting contribution to understanding the complex interplay of religious beliefs and social support and suggest that future research should consider the possibility that religious beliefs might contribute to the development of autism.