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The role of loneliness as a mediator between autism features and mental health among autistic young adults. Autism 2021 Feb;25(2):545-555



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85094661492 (requires institutional sign-in at Scopus site)   22 Citations


Autistic adults commonly experience mental health concerns including social anxiety and depression, which can have negative effects on their quality of life. It is not completely clear, however, why rates of mental health concerns are so high. Some evidence suggests that social connectedness might play a key role. The goal of this study was to explore links between loneliness, mental health concerns, autism features, and social contact among autistic adults and test whether the links between mental health with autism features and social contact can be explained by loneliness. Researchers in this study collected data using questionnaires completed by 69 autistic young adults. Autistic adults who reported more autism features also reported more social and family loneliness, higher levels of social anxiety and depression, and fewer initiated social contacts. In addition, adults with more social contact initiations were likely to report lower levels of social and family loneliness and social anxiety but not depression. Results showed that the link from social engagement and autism features to social anxiety and depression symptoms could be mostly explained by loneliness. The results of this study expand previous findings by illustrating one factor (loneliness) that might be responsible for the high rates of mental health concerns among adults on the autism spectrum. These findings highlight the importance of studying factors related to mental health concerns among autistic adults and ways to best support social connectedness for the mental well-being of autistic young adults.

Author List

Schiltz HK, McVey AJ, Dolan Wozniak B, Haendel AD, Stanley R, Arias A, Gordon N, Van Hecke AV


Nakia Gordon BS,MA,PhD Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at Marquette University
Amy Van Hecke PhD Professor in the Psychology department at Marquette University

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autistic Disorder
Mental Health
Quality of Life
Young Adult