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Health and Mental Health

Heart and headMost people on the autism spectrum have some difficulty in the areas of physical and mental health. Roughly 70% of youth on the autism spectrum have co-occurring mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or attention deficit disorder. Many also take multiple forms of medication for these conditions.

Since autism was considered a childhood disorder for decades, the number of healthcare professionals currently trained to treat adults on the autism spectrum is limited.

Our Approach

Our work looks at access to health and mental health services throughout the life span and the effect access has on quality of life.

Our Key Questions

How many young adults on the autism spectrum have co-occurring health and mental health conditions?

What are the needs of people with co-occurring conditions?

How do these conditions affect their quality of life?

Our Key Findings

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • Approximately 60% of youth on the autism spectrum had at least two health or mental health conditions in addition to autism. (NAIR, 2015)
  • Three-quarters of youth on the autism spectrum took at least one kind of medication on a regular basis for any health or mental health issue. (NAIR, 2015)
  • These youth have high rates of antipsychotic, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety and stimulant medication use.  (Frazier, 2011)
  • During high school, nearly half of adolescents on the autism spectrum use mental health services, and 49% receive this service at school. (Narendorf, 2011)
  • Access to mental health services declines after high school. African American youth and those from lower-income households are more likely to receive school-based mental health services. (Narendorf, 2011)

Additional Resources

You can also find links to our scientific journal articles.

Notable Publications