Gender differences in mental health prevalence in autism

Felicity Sedgewick, Jenni Leppanen, Kate Tchanturia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
617 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Purpose: Mental health conditions are known to be more common amongst autistic than non-autistic people. To date, there is little work exploring gender differences in mental health amongst autistic people and no work including non-binary/trans people. This paper aims to address this gap. Design/methodology/approach: This was a large-scale online study, with 948 participants between 18 and 81 years old. Participants self-reported autism, anxiety, depression and eating disorder status. Analyses were run examining gender differences in the rates of these conditions in each group. Findings: Autistic people are more likely to have anxiety and depression than non-autistic people of all genders. Autistic women and non-binary people experienced mental health issues at higher rates than men and at similar rates to each other. Autistic people were twice as likely as non-autistic people to have all eating disorders. Further, gendered patterns of eating disorders seen in the non-autistic population are also present in the autistic population. Research limitations/implications: There are inherent issues with self-report of diagnoses online, but this study showed that using screening questionnaires is effective. Originality/value: This is the first paper to look at gender differences in common mental health issues amongst autistic and non-autistic adults. It highlights that there are significant gendered patterns in the prevalence of mental health issues in both the autistic and non-autistic population and that these have an impact for how treatment should be approached to be effective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAdvances in Autism
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Gender differences
  • Prevalence

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