More men and boys are currently diagnosed as autistic than women and girls. Find out about the gender ratio and the theories that try to explain it. We also look at gender identity - how you perceive yourself as a man, woman, blend of the two or neither – and gender dysphoria.

Diagnosis rates

Various studies, together with anecdotal evidence have come up with men/women ratios ranging from 2:1 to 16:1.

  • In Leo Kanner's 1943 study of a small group of children with autism there were four times as many boys as girls.
  • Hans Asperger thought no women or girls were affected by the syndrome he described in Autistic psychopathy in childhood (1944), but he changed his mind later.
  • Lorna Wing found in her 1981 paper on sex ratios in early childhood autism that among people with 'high-functioning autism' or Asperger syndrome there were 15 times more men and boys than women and girls, while in autistic people with learning difficulties, the ratio of men and boys to women and girls was closer to 2:1.
  • In their much larger 1993 study of Asperger syndrome in mainstream schools in Sweden, Ehlers and Gillberg found a boy to girl ratio of 4:1.
  • Brugha's 2009 survey of adults living in households throughout England found that 1.8% of men and boys surveyed had a diagnosis of autism, compared to 0.2% of women and girls.
  • In 2015, the ratio of men to women supported by The National Autistic Society’s adult services was approximately 3:1, and the ratio of boys to girls in our charity’s schools was approximately 5:1.

Theories to explain the gender split

There are a number of theories that might explain why more men and boys than women and girls get an autism diagnosis.

Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is where a person experiences distress because their biological sex differs from their gender identity. For example, they may have been assigned female at birth, but identify as a man (a trans man). Or they may have been assigned female at birth, but identify as neither a man nor a woman (a non-binary person).

There is some evidence that autistic people are more likely than other people to have gender dysphoria, but there is little evidence about the reason why.

Hear what Sally Powis, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, has to say about:

Read what Joe Butler has to say about supporting trans and gender questioning autistic pupils

Hear from autistic trans and non-binary people.

Further information and support

We have added links below, which you can follow to a range of different sources of information. On such an important issue, we would advise you review as much different information as possible.

Last reviewed 11 October 2018