Positive well-being may buffer against depression in people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study published in Autism Research.
Investigators examined the well-being of a newly employed group in an assisted employment program for adults with ASD. Participants were employed in small software testing, data analytics, and cybersecurity teams at the Australian infotech company DXC Technology. Of 46 program enrollees, 43 participated in the study and 36 (32 male, ages 18 to 57) had follow-up data available at the conclusion.
Several measures were used to monitor participants, including Waisman Activities of Daily Living scale, which assesses life skills in people with developmental disabilities. The abridged version of the Autism-Spectrum Quotient was used to assess autism trait severity. Perceived social support was assessed on the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List-12, while job satisfaction was assessed on the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire-Short Form. Depression and anxiety were monitored on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and DSM-5 Dimensional Anxiety Scale, respectively. Finally, the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale covered subjective well-being and psychological functioning.
Mental health and well-being remained generally stable over time, with minor increases in daily living skills. A slight decrease in job satisfaction was noted at 12 months, in line with previous research suggesting that job satisfaction peaks shortly after beginning employment and decreases over time.
Controlling for depression at baseline, positive well-being negatively predicted depression at follow-up. Perceived social support, autism traits, and depression scores were correlated, in expected directions, with positive well-being.
The study was limited by its fairly small selective sample, which included only individuals who maintained successful employment in skilled technology fields. Additionally, researchers noted, their findings may not generalize to adults outside of supported employment programs.
“Our study provides evidence of the potential buffering or protective role of positive well-being against depression in people with ASD,” the researchers wrote. They added that further research might be done on the potential impact of supported vs open employment or unemployment on mental health and well-being in this population.
Note: Two of the authors were supported by funding from DXC Technology and the Australian Government Department of Human Services and Department of Defense.
Hedley D, Uljarevic M, Bury SM, Dissanayake C. Predictors of mental health and well-being in employed adults with autism spectrum disorder at 12-month follow-up [published online January 24, 2019]. Autism Res. doi: 10.1002/aur.2064