Outdoor light at night and autism spectrum disorder in Shanghai, China: A matched case-control study

Yinyu Xie, Zhijuan Jin, Hong Huang, Shanshan Li, Guanghui Dong, Yuewei Liu, Gongbo Chen, Yuming Guo

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Several environmental factors have been identified to be associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) over the past decades. However, evidence is limited for the effect of exposure to outdoor light at night (LAN) on ASD in China and even elsewhere in the world. Methods: Participants in this study were from a multi-stage sampling survey on ASD conducted between June 2014 and October 2014 among children aged 3–12 years in Shanghai, China. All participants underwent a two-stage screening of ASD via questionnaire, and then, suspected cases were finally diagnosed by clinical examination. For data analyses, each ASD case was randomly matched with 10 healthy controls by age and sex. The LAN data were extracted from the stable lights product of the US Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System (DMSP-OLS) according to geolocation information of residential addresses. Mean levels of exposure to LAN during the 3 years after birth and 1 year before birth were calculated. We used conditional logistic regression models to examine the association between LAN and ASD. Results: We investigated 84,934 children from 96 kindergartens, 55 primary schools, and 28 special education schools, and 203 children were diagnosed as ASD cases. A total of 1727 children (157 ASD cases and 1570 healthy controls) were included in the final analyses. Brighter LAN exposures after and before birth were significantly associated with higher risk of ASD. After adjusting for potential covariates, adjusted odd ratios and 95% confidence intervals associated with per unit increase in LAN were 1.066 (1.027, 1.107) during the 3 years after birth and 1.046 (1.018, 1.075) during the 1 year before birth. Conclusions: Results of our study concluded brighter LAN exposure was significantly associated with higher risk of ASD among Chinese children, which suggested that outdoor LAN could be a potential risk factor of ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152340
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2022


  • A matched case-control study
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Light at night

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