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The association between COVID-19, personal wellbeing, depression, and suicide risk factors in Australian autistic adults

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posted on 14.01.2022, 04:18 by Darren HedleyDarren Hedley, Susan Hayward, K Denney, Mirko UljarevicMirko Uljarevic, Simon BurySimon Bury, Ensu SahinEnsu Sahin, CM Brown, A Clapperton, Cheryl DissanayakeCheryl Dissanayake, J Robinson, J Trollor, MA Stokes
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the world's population, with particularly negative effects on vulnerable populations, including autistic people. Although some consensus regarding specific impact on aspects of wellbeing and mental health in autism is starting to emerge, it is unclear whether the pandemic has increased suicide risk. The goals of this study were to examine (a) potential associations between COVID-19 impact and depression, personal wellbeing, and suicide risk factors in Australian autistic adults and (b) age and gender effects. The COVID-19 Impact Scale (CIS), Personal Wellbeing Index, Patient Health Questionnaire, and the Suicide Behavior Questionnaire, Revised (SBQ-R), were administered to 111 autistic adults aged 20 to 71 years during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. COVID-19 impact showed small associations with poorer personal wellbeing (r = −0.224, p = 0.023, [−0.409, −0.016]) and higher depressive symptoms (r = 0.268, p = 0.006, [0.056, 0.445]) and was not associated with the SBQ-R suicide risk score (r = 0.081, p = 0.418, [−0.118, 0.264). No significant effects were identified for age. Although model results were similar for women and men, the strength of the associations between personal wellbeing and depression (z = −2.16, p = 0.015), and depression and SBQ-R suicide risk (z = 1.961, p = 0.025), were stronger in women than in men. Qualitative analysis of an open response question from the CIS suggested that the pandemic had both positive and negative impacts on participants. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a large impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the world's population, particularly vulnerable populations such as autistic people. It is not known if these impacts on mental health and wellbeing have increased suicide risk. Our findings suggest that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may be associated with poorer wellbeing and higher depression, but is not associated with suicide risk. Overall, autistic people reported both positive and negative impacts of the pandemic on their lives.


Australian Research Council, Grant/Award Number: Discovery Early Career Researcher Award/DE180100; National Health and Medical Research Council, Grant/Award Number: Career Development Fellowship/APP1142348; Suicide Prevention Australia, Grant/Award Number: National Suicide Prevention Research Fellowship; University of Melbourne, Grant/Award Number: Dame Kate Campbell Fellowship; Untapped Holdings


Publication Date



Autism Research






(p. 2663-2676)





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The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. © 2021 The Authors.