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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Autistic College Students, Social Connections, Depression, and Anxiety

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the growing number of college students on the autism spectrum

 McKenney, E. E., Richards, J. K., Day, T. C., Brunwasser, S. M., Cucchiara, C. L., Kofner, B., McDonald, R. G., Gillespie-Lynch, K., Lamm, J., Kang, E., Lerner, M. D., & Gotham, K. O. (2024). Satisfaction with social connectedness is associated with depression and anxiety symptoms in neurodiverse first-semester college students. Autism, 0(0).

Lay abstract:

How satisfied people feel with their social connections and support is related to mental health outcomes for many different types of people. People may feel less socially connected at some times in their life—like when they start college. Feeling disconnected from others could lead to depression or anxiety. The transition to college may be especially difficult for autistic students as they are more likely to have difficulties adjusting socially. In our study, we asked 263 college students to answer questions about their emotions and social satisfaction twice per week during their first semester of college. We found that students who reported being less satisfied with their social connectedness (either at the beginning or throughout the semester) tended to express more symptoms of depression and anxiety. This relationship between social satisfaction and anxiety was even stronger for people who had a strong desire for social interaction (i.e. were more socially motivated). Students with more autistic traits tended to report more mood concerns, and they also reported being less satisfied with friendships at the beginning of the semester. This information may help to support ongoing efforts to better address mental health in autistic college students by encouraging efforts to improve social satisfaction.