(Bloomberg) -- An estimated one in 40 American children have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, according a study published in this month’s edition of the journal Pediatrics.

The 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health survey, based on responses from the parents of more than 50,000 children ages 3 to 17, determined:

  • Children with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder were more likely to have increased health care needs, and encountered difficulty in receiving care more than children with other behavioral disorders
  • 27 percent were taking medication for related symptoms
  • 64 percent received behavioral treatments over the prior 12 months

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has increased over the past 30 to 40 years, most likely a result of “broadening diagnostic criteria, increased provider ascertainment at earlier ages, increased parent awareness, and an increase in some risk factors such as births to older parents,” the study said.

The condition is “characterized by persistent deficits in social communication and interactions and restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests,” the study said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Tanzi in Washington at atanzi@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kristy Scheuble at kmckeaney@bloomberg.net, Vincent Del Giudice

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.