Journal scan

Exploration of the mental health of adults with autism

US study compared the mental health of patients with autistic spectrum disorders with a random control group
Depressed person

A large-scale study in America has compared the health of 1,507 people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) with a control group of randomly selected people without ASD and found that the health of those with ASD was severely affected by major psychiatric conditions compared with the control group.

Both groups had an equal mix of adults of all ages and sexes. Records such as medical notes and health registers were used to compare the two groups.

All major psychiatric disorders were significantly more common in those with ASD. More than half (54%) were diagnosed with a mental illness, 29% experienced anxiety, 26% depression (between two and nine times higher than in the control group), 11% had bipolar disorder, 8% had obsessive compulsive disorder and 8% had schizophrenia (22 times higher than those in the control group). The group with ASD was also more at risk of suicide attempts.

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A large-scale study in America has compared the health of 1,507 people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) with a control group of randomly selected people without ASD and found that the health of those with ASD was severely affected by major psychiatric conditions compared with the control group.

Both groups had an equal mix of adults of all ages and sexes. Records such as medical notes and health registers were used to compare the two groups.

All major psychiatric disorders were significantly more common in those with ASD. More than half (54%) were diagnosed with a mental illness, 29% experienced anxiety, 26% depression (between two and nine times higher than in the control group), 11% had bipolar disorder, 8% had obsessive compulsive disorder and 8% had schizophrenia (22 times higher than those in the control group). The group with ASD was also more at risk of suicide attempts.

Women with ASD were diagnosed more often with mental illnesses than men. They have more frequent diagnoses of anxiety, bipolar disorders, depression, dementia and schizophrenia, and were found to be more at risk of suicide attempts. 

The research team suggest their study is as reliable as the data used and acknowledged that some hospital data may not be accurately recorded. Further exploration of social and biological factors is therefore needed to question their significance on the health of people with ASD, along with further research into the group’s access to healthcare and how this can affect individual health status.

Croen L et al (2015) The health status of adults on the autism spectrum. Autism. 19, 7, 814-823. doi:10.1177/1362361315577517

Journal scan is compiled by Stacy Atkinson, learning disability nursing lead at the University of Huddersfield

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