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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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3.2 Social life, independence and mental health

The most consistently negative results from Magiati’s report concern social life and independence in adults on the spectrum. More than half of participants remained fully or largely dependent on parents or carers in adulthood, and needed significant support for education and living arrangements. Few have friendships, romantic relationships or employment. Correspondingly, the NAS estimates that only 16 per cent of adults in the UK are employed (National Autistic Society, 2016).

More than half of autistic adults are likely to have some mental health difficulties, most commonly depression and anxiety. It is not clear to what extent mental health problems are a feature linked to autism itself, or a consequence of social isolation and society’s response to autism. The need to overcome rigid routines, make decisions or adapt to new circumstances in order to engage with the world could provoke extreme anxiety. Behaving and thinking ‘differently’ and being awkward around others could lead to the difficulty in forming relationships and obtaining employment.

In general, the quality of life experienced by adults on the spectrum is lower than for neurotypical adults (van Heijst and Geurts, 2015).