The role of Alexithymia and Autistic Traits in predicting Quality of Life in an online sample

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Abstract

Background
Autistic people tend to report poorer Quality of Life (QOL) than comparison groups, though some studies do report more optimistic findings. Higher autistic traits are also related to poorer QOL. However, the role of alexithymia in this relationship has not been explored.

Method
A total of 163 participants (N = 53 autistic and N = 111 comparison) consented to take part; however, 30 participants were excluded due to missing data (who did not differ from those who were retained on age, gender, education, employment, or living status), leaving a final sample of 133 (N = 42 Autistic and 91 Comparison participants). Demographic information (including age, gender) was collected, alongside self-report measures of autistic traits, mental health, alexithymia, and QOL. We estimated regression models based on pre-registered analysis, and we conducted exploratory network analyses.

Results
Alexithymic traits did not predict QOL when controlling for covariates. Depression significantly predicted Physical, Psychological, and Social QOL. When examining the impact of just alexithymic traits and autistic traits, both were significantly associated with Physical and Psychological QOL. For participants with a low depression score, the correlation between alexithymia and QOL was strong; suggesting that depression occludes the association between alexithymia and QOL. Network analyses suggested that depression and anxiety exert direct effects on Physical and Psychological QOL, whereas alexithymia scores may influence Physical QOL via autistic traits.

Conclusion
In sum, depression is a pervasive negative predictor of multiple QOL domains. The role of alexithymia in predicting QOL dimensionally and categorically was not ruled out, given our exploratory analyses, we suggest that interventions which target alexithymia may positively impact QOL for those who score low on depressive symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101887
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Volume90
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022

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