Adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are at increased risk of suicide compared to the general population. Research has yet to identify the mechanisms underlying this increased risk. This study examined perceived social support as a potential protective factor for depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in 76 adults with ASD. Twenty-five percent of participants were in the clinical range for depression, and 20% reported recent suicidal ideation. Social support in the form of appraisal and belonging was not associated with depression or ideation; however the perceived availability of tangible (material) support indirectly acted on ideation through depression. The findings suggest that tangible support, but not appraisal or belonging, may act as an indirect protective factor against suicidality in ASD.
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The full SEM was run excluding participants (n = 12) who did not meet the recommended cut-off for ASD (≥65) on the AQ-Short (refer to “Appendix” for the figure). The exclusion of participants who did not meet the recommended cut-off did not affect the model. Result showed that depression had a direct effect on suicidal ideation (β = 0.61, p < .001). ISEL-12 Tangible Support had no direct effect on suicidal ideation (β = 0.046, p = .664), but showed an indirect effect through depression (β = −0.261, p = .037). Therefore, the indirect model was supported.
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DH and MW were supported by funding from DXC Technology and the Australian Government Department of Human Services and Department of Defence.We would like to thank the individuals who participated in this study.
This research was funded by DXC Technology and the Australian Government Department of Human Services and Department of Defence. The funding sources were provided a copy of the manuscript prior to submission but had no involvement in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.
DH, MU, AR and CD designed the study. DH and MW collected the data. DH and MU conceived of the report. DH, MU and MW analyzed the data and drafted the manuscript. All authors reviewed and approved the final submitted version of the manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no other actual or potential conflicts of interest.
This research was approved by La Trobe University Human Ethics Committee No. 14–101 and the Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee No. 825-16. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Hedley, D., Uljarević, M., Wilmot, M. et al. Brief Report: Social Support, Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord 47, 3669–3677 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-017-3274-2
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Social support
- Suicidal ideation