Anxiety moderates the influence of ASD severity on quality of life in adults with ASD

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Journal Article
Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2019, 62 pp. 39 - 47
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© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Background: Comorbidity of anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children and adolescents is well-documented. Preliminary evidence suggests rates of comorbidity in adults with ASD may be comparable. Little is known about the manifestation of anxiety symptoms in adults with ASD or the potential for these symptoms to impact quality of life in this population. The current study aimed to examine the role of anxiety symptoms in quality of life among young adults with ASD. Method: We collected online survey data from a large sample (N = 224) of parents of young adults with ASD and a subsample of adults with ASD. We examined prevalence of anxiety symptoms based on reported prior diagnoses and proportion of individuals exceeding clinical cutoffs on anxiety measures. Regression models were used to evaluate anxiety as a moderator of the relationship between ASD symptoms and quality of life. Results: Based on parent- and self-report data, 48% of adults with ASD exceeded clinical cutoffs for anxiety. Anxiety moderated the relationship between ASD severity and the social relations domain of quality of life such that ASD severity predicted quality of life only among individuals with low levels of anxiety. Conclusions: Results provide preliminary evidence that anxiety symptoms relate to quality of life in adults with ASD independently of core ASD symptomatology. Future research should further characterize anxiety symptoms among adults with ASD, as well as evaluate the impact of anxiety symptoms on quality of life and overall outcome through the use of prospective longitudinal studies.
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