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Ageing and autism: A longitudinal follow-up study of mental health and quality of life in autistic adults

Roestorf, A., Howlin, P. & Bowler, D. M. ORCID: 0000-0002-9884-0627 (2022). Ageing and autism: A longitudinal follow-up study of mental health and quality of life in autistic adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, article number 741213. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.741213


Background: Poor mental health is known to adversely affect functional abilities, social isolation, and quality of life (QoL). It is, therefore, crucial to consider the long-term impacts of mental health conditions as autistic adults grow older.

Objectives: To explore, in a group of community-based autistic adults, the extent of: (i) autistic traits, co-occurring physical and mental health conditions; (ii) age-related differences in those conditions, and changes over time; and (iii) their impact on everyday living and QoL.

Method: About Sixty-eight autistic adults (aged 19–80 years) participated in the first study (T1); 49 participants from T1 took part in a follow-up at T2 (mean retest interval 2.4 years). Standardised self-report measures of autistic traits, mental health, and QoL were completed at both time points.

Results: Over two-thirds (71%) of autistic adult participants experienced at least one co-occurring condition, and over a third (37%) met the criteria for three or more co-occurring conditions. Mental and physical health difficulties were related to autistic traits and difficulties in everyday life and were consistent predictors of poor QoL at T1 and T2.

Conclusion: Mental health difficulties in autism persisted into older age and did not improve over time. These findings have important implications for mental health provision for autistic adults in older age.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 Roestorf, Howlin and Bowler. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Publisher Keywords: autism, ageing, mental health, quality of life, follow-up studies
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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