‘Quality of life’ is the satisfaction or general wellbeing that each individual experiences in different aspects of their everyday life, such as their health, education, employment and social relationships. Past research studies have suggested that, on average, autistic individuals experience a lower quality of life than those without autism. However, it is unclear how much of this might be explained by anxiety or depression symptoms, which affect at least 20-50% of autistic people.
AIMS-2-TRIALS researchers at Kings College London measured individual differences in the quality of life of 573 6-30-year-olds with and without a diagnosis of autism, who took part in the Longitudinal European Autism Project. The researchers found that, though some autistic people experience lower wellbeing compared to those without autism, many reported good wellbeing. Where wellbeing was reduced, this was particularly explained by depression symptoms, across all ages. For children and adolescents, anxiety symptoms and social-communication difficulties were also related to some aspects of wellbeing, especially health and performance at school.
These findings show that better support and services for improving the mental health of autistic people may also be beneficial for broader meaningful outcomes, like quality of life. The team are now working on several research projects to better understand the factors that relate to mental health in autism, as key targets for future interventions.
Oakley, B., Tillmann, J., Ahmad, J., Crawley, D., San José Cáceres, A., Holt, R., Charman, T., Banaschewski, T., Buitelaar, J., Simonoff, E., … and The EU-AIMS LEAP Group. (2020). How do core autism traits and associated symptoms relate to quality of life? Findings from the Longitudinal European Autism Project. Autism. Published October 7th, 2020.