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Study Examines Loneliness in Adults with Autism

Date Published: 
April 22, 2014

A new study refutes the idea that people with autism are not affected by loneliness. In fact, adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can experience negative consequences of loneliness, as can people who don't have autism, according to research by University of Missouri psychologist Micah O. Mazurek Ph.D.

Loneliness may be a result of "social difficulties for individuals with ASDs" and may have "emotional repercussions above and beyond the effects of social impairment," according to her research article, published in the journal Autism. Adults with ASD who desire friendships but do not have them may be especially vulnerable to depression and lower self-esteem. It's also possible that some adults with ASD have "underlying depression and anxiety" that causes them to feel lonely and socially isolated. Dr. Mazurek recommended more study of this topic.1

Her study also found that adults with ASD who have a circle of friends are less likely to be lonely and depressed than those who don't have those relationships.

Dr. Mazurek studied 108 adults with ASD aged 18 to 62 who were recruited with the help of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) Research Database at Kennedy Krieger Institute, and Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.