Monday 28 September 2015

Autism traits in older adults with depressive disorders

"ASD [autism spectrum disorder] might be overlooked in older adults and especially within geriatric psychiatry when diagnosing and treating depression and anxiety in older patients one should be attentive to ASD."

So concluded Hilde Geurts and colleagues [1] as a function of their results looking for the presence of autistic traits in older adults with and without depressive disorders participating in the Netherlands study of depression in older persons (NESDO) initiative. Based on the analysis of some 250 older adults (aged between 60-90 years) fulfilling DSM-IV depressive disorder criteria compared against 114 non-depressed older adults, researchers noted quite a few more autistic traits in the depressed older adults based on the use of the "abbreviated Autism Spectrum Quotient [AQ]." In more detail: "Of the older adults with a depressive disorder 31% showed elevated ASD characteristics, which is much higher than the observed 6% in the comparison group."

I don't want to dwell too long on these results but there are some potentially important things to say about them. First is the emphasis on autistic traits over and above a diagnosis of autism. There is a difference; as I've discussed in other recent work (see here). Second is the authors' use of the AQ and how one has to be a little careful about what the AQ is actually measuring (see here). Third is the importance of the related finding reported by Geurts et al on how: "High ASD characteristics were associated with elevated depression and anxiety symptoms, and more comorbid anxiety disorders." As I've mentioned before on this blog, depression and anxiety can represent significant 'loading' when autism is diagnosed (see here and see here). These latest findings potentially further strengthen the links. Finally, is the intriguing prospect that autism screening in older adults might contribute to all those debates about the prevalence of autism and specifically adult autism (see here).

No music to close today, just some rather peculiar news about the end of the world (again).


[1] Geurts HM. et al. Autism characteristics in older adults with depressive disorders. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2015. Sept 3.

---------- Geurts, H., Stek, M., & Comijs, H. (2015). Autism characteristics in older adults with depressive disorders The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry DOI: 10.1016/j.jagp.2015.08.003

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