Researchers Estimate The Worldwide Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder | Just Believe Recovery PA

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Researchers Estimate The Worldwide Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder

An article recently published by JAMA Pediatrics estimates that the worldwide prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) to be around 8 in 1,000 in the general population.

FASD is a group of symptoms that child may incur when exposed to alcohol consumption while in the womb. Symptoms may be life-long and are wide-ranging, and can be physical, mental, emotional and behavioral. They include:

  • Abnormal facial features and small head size
  • Shorter-than-average height and/or low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Hyperactive behavior and attention difficulties
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty in school and learning/intellectual disabilities or low IQ
  • Speech and language delays
  • Poor reasoning and judgment skills
  • Sleep and sucking problems as a baby
  • Vision or hearing problems
  • Conditions of the heart, kidneys, or bones

For the research, investigators conducted a meta-analysis of two dozen studies that included more than 1,400 children and youth with FASD.

The authors reported the following:

The worldwide prevalence of FASD among youth is an estimated 8 in 1,000 in the general population.
An estimated 1 in 13 pregnant women who used alcohol during pregnancy would give birth to a child with FASD.

Based on specific studies, the prevalence of FASD among special populations, such as incarcerated and psychiatric care populations) ranged from 5-68 times higher than the worldwide prevalence in the general population.

Other Findings

The WHO European Region had the highest prevalence per population at 19.8, and the Eastern Mediterranean Region had the lowest (0.1.) South Africa was estimated to have the highest prevalence of FASD at 111.1 per 1000 population, followed by Croatia at 53.3 and Ireland at 47.5.

The article concludes:

“Globally, FASD is a prevalent alcohol-related developmental disability that is largely preventable. The findings highlight the need to establish a universal public health message about the potential harm of prenatal alcohol exposure and a routine screening protocol. Brief interventions should be provided, where appropriate.”

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


Shannon Lange, MPH et al. Global Prevalence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Among Children and Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, August 2017.

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