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Aging and autism: Do measures of autism symptoms, co-occurring mental health conditions, or quality of life differ between younger and older autistic adults?

Yarar, E. Z., Roestorf, A., Spain, D. , Howlin, P., Bowler, D. M. ORCID: 0000-0002-9884-0627, Charlton, R. & Happe, F. (2022). Aging and autism: Do measures of autism symptoms, co-occurring mental health conditions, or quality of life differ between younger and older autistic adults?. Autism Research, 15(8), pp. 1482-1494. doi: 10.1002/aur.2780

Abstract

Abstract
Previous research has indicated that autistic adults experience higher rates of co-occurring mental health difficulties and poorer quality of life (QoL) than their non-autistic peers. Little is known, however, about these aspects in older age or whether younger and older autistic adults experience similar patterns This cross-sectional study investigated potential age-related effects on autism symptoms, self-reported mental health, and QoL in younger and older autistic adults (n = 79, aged 19–71 years) compared to a non-autistic control group (n = 57) matched for gender, age and IQ. Results showed that autistic adults had higher levels of self-reported autism symptoms and poorer QoL than controls. There were no significant age effects on autism symptoms or on most self-rated mental health symptoms. However, significantly more autistic adults in the younger versus older group scored above the clinical threshold for anxiety, somatoform disorders and eating disorders. Older autistic adults rated social QoL as significantly better than younger autistic adults; there was no significant age difference in the control group. Self-reported QoL was best predicted by self-ratings of severity of depressive symptoms in both groups. Further research is needed to track autism and co-occurring mental health symptomatology across the lifespan, so that service provision can be tailored accordingly.

Lay Summary
Young autistic adults have reported more psychological difficulties and poorer quality of life (QoL) than the general population. We investigated whether these difficulties continue into older age. Autism symptoms and mental health problems were common in autistic adults, with no difference between age groups, except for anxiety, physical and eating problems. Although QoL was poorer in both younger and older autistic compared to non-autistic adults, older autistic adults reported better social QoL than those who were younger.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Yarar, E. Z., Roestorf, A., Spain, D. view all authors (2022). Aging and autism: Do measures of autism symptoms, co-occurring mental health conditions, or quality of life differ between younger and older autistic adults?. Autism Research, 15(8), pp. 1482-1494., which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.2780. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
[img] Text - Accepted Version
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