Exploring Quality of Life Issues for Adults on the Spectrum

New Research Focuses on the Interplay Between Gastrointestinal, Sleep, and Social Issues

At this time a year ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that autism rates in this country continue to climb. The agency then released their staggering current rate of 1 in 54 children holding an autism diagnosis. This rate represents a 2.76 fold increase in the amount of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) since the CDC started collecting data in 2000. The CDC now estimates that 1 in 45 or 2.21% of American adults have autism. However, little is known about quality of life (QoL) for these adults.This is why a new study published in the Research in Developmental Disabilities is intriguing. The aim of this research was to investigate the relationship between sleep problems, gastrointestinal symptoms, autism traits, social functioning and social support on QoL for adults with ASD. QoL was measured across four domains: physical health, psychological, social relationship, and environment. In order to find out more about QoL in this cohort, the study recruited 107 adults on the spectrum to answer several different surveys including: the Autism Spectrum Quotient-10 (Adult), Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, Social Functioning Questionnaire, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Gastrointestinal Symptom Inventory and the World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF.  The data provided by these surveys showed that 86% of participants had at least one gastrointestinal (GI) symptom within the previous three months. Although, these symptoms did not seem to affect QoL. An astounding 89% of the study’s subjects were classified as poor sleepers which caused daytime dysfunction in many of the participants. These sleep problems resulted in lower QoL in the domains of physical health and environment. Better social functioning was significantly correlated with greater QoL in all domains. Conversely, poorer social functioning was negatively correlated with QoL across the four domains. Interestingly, the greater amount of perceived social support from family equated to a higher level of QoL across the psychological and environment domains. The research team also discovered that 25.7% of the participants had one or more comorbid physical or medical conditions, which lowered QoL. 

Original Study

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