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Understanding loneliness in autistic adults

Loneliness is related to depression, anxiety, and even cardiovascular risk among other negative impacts. The purpose of this study was to understand what was associated with loneliness in autistic adults compared with non-autistic adults. Researchers also wanted to understand the experience of loneliness for autistic adults.

Using data from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Autistic Adults (ALSAA), the study gathered questionnaires from 252 autistic and 146 non-autistic adults aged 25+ years from across Australia. It found that autistic adults are often lonelier than non-autistic adults. Loneliness for both autistic and non-autistic adults was related to social skills and dissatisfaction with social support. 

However, autistic adults told the research team that there is a difference between loneliness and being alone. Autistic adults also told us there are many barriers to socialising, for example, noisy environments or a culture of drinking alcohol. Some autistic adults said that a quiet setting, sport, or recreation activities can support them to socialise more.

These findings show that loneliness is more frequent for autistic adults and suggest that maybe strategies to help with loneliness for non-autistic adults could help some autistic adults. As we start to understand loneliness and aloneness in autistic adults better, we can do a better job designing strategies to help people be less lonely.

Find out more
Ee, D., Hwang, Y.I., Reppermund, S., Srasuebkul, P., Trollor, J.N.., Foley, K-R. & Arnold, S.R.C. (2019). Loneliness in adults on the autism spectrum, Autism in Adulthood, 1(3), 182-193.