HealthDay News — Stress related to social stigma may contribute to why people with autism experience more mental health problems than the general population, according to a study published online Oct. 12 in Society and Mental Health.

Monique Botha and David M. Frost, Ph.D., both from the University of Surrey in Guildford, U.K., and colleagues assessed the utility of the minority stress model as an explanation for the experience of mental health problems within a sample of 111 high-functioning individuals with autism.

The researchers found that despite controlling for general stress exposure, minority stressors, including everyday discrimination, internalized stigma, and concealment, significantly predicted poorer mental health. Specifically, minority stressors were predictive of higher levels of psychological distress and lower levels of emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

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“Traditionally autism and poor mental health were believed to be intrinsically linked, but this is not the case,” said Botha in a statement. “These findings show that poor mental health of people with autism is instead directly connected with exposure to social stress, which goes beyond the effects of everyday stress that are experienced by others.”

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