Skip to main content

Brief Report: Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Depressive Symptoms among Autistic Adults


Autistic individuals are at risk for developing depression though the risk and protective factors for co-occurring depression in autistic individuals are not yet fully characterized. In this retrospective medical chart review study, we explored factors associated with self-reported depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9) in autistic adults (N = 58). For autistic adults, engagement in one or more activities (recreational, educational and/or vocational) was associated with less severe depressive symptoms (Mann–Whitney U test, p = 0.006); and reported family history of depression/anxiety was associated with increased likelihood of suicidal ideation (Chi-square test, p = 0.027). Promotion of community-based activities and family support systems may be an integral part of creating effective treatment plans for depressive symptoms in autistic adults.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Download references


We wish to thank the autistic adults and their families who have utilized the University of Washington Adult Autism Clinic. Preliminary results from this study were presented in a poster at the 2018 International Society for Autism Research Annual Meeting. This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health Research Education Grant No. R25 MH104159 (Principal Investigator: Dr. John F. Neumaier). Final stages of manuscript preparation were completed by PDR during the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at Brown University. The authors would like to thank Dr. Daniel P. Dickstein for helpful feedback on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



PDR: Study conception; data abstraction and analysis; initial manuscript draft and manuscript revision; final approval. KB: Data abstraction and analysis; manuscript revision; final approval. TH: Study conception; literature review and writing; manuscript revision; final approval. SJW: Study conception; manuscript revision; final approval. GAS: Study conception; manuscript revision; final approval.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Petya D. Radoeva.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Radoeva, P.D., Ballinger, K., Ho, T. et al. Brief Report: Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Depressive Symptoms among Autistic Adults. J Autism Dev Disord 52, 2819–2824 (2022).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Depression
  • Adulthood
  • Community activities
  • PHQ-9