Category: Autism Spectrum and Developmental Disorders

PS6- #B44 - Prevalence, Incidence, and Factors Associated With Unipolar Depressive Disorders in Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Friday, Nov 17
2:45 PM – 3:45 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders | Depression | Comorbidity

Background: The global prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is 1 in 160 individuals, yet the mental health of individuals with ASD is poorly understood. Substantial uncertainty exists about the prevalence of unipolar depressive disorders in individuals with ASD, with lifetime prevalence estimates ranging from 3% to 70% (Downs et al., 2016; Lugnegård et al., 2011). The aim of the current systematic review and meta-analysis is to quantitatively summarize studies assessing the lifetime prevalence and current incidence of unipolar depressive disorders in children, adolescents and adults with ASD, and to examine whether these rates vary based on age, sex, and IQ of the sample.


Methods: We searched the electronic databases PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, CINAHL and ProQuest Dissertations and Theses for empirical articles that assessed the lifetime prevalence and current incidence of unipolar depressive disorders in individuals with ASD. The initial search yielded a total of 6,318 articles. An additional 209 articles were obtained from forward and backward reference searches. Studies were included if they were written in English, included a sample of individuals with ASD, and they reported the lifetime prevalence or current incidence of unipolar depressive disorders. Articles were assessed for eligibility and coded by the first and second authors.


Findings: We identified 46 articles with 24,898 participants that assessed the lifetime prevalence of unipolar depressive disorders in individuals with ASD. The pooled lifetime prevalence reported in studies that used standardized semi-structured interviews was 29.9% (95% CI 22.0–39.2). This was significantly higher than the pooled lifetime prevalence reported in studies that used chart review or self-report methods of assessing unipolar depressive disorders (7.2%, 95% CI 4.5–11.2). Lifetime prevalence increased as mean age and IQ of the sample increased. The lifetime prevalence was not associated with sex.


We identified an additional 22 articles with 2,934 participants that assessed the current incidence of unipolar depressive disorders in individuals with ASD. The pooled frequency of current incidences was 13.0% (95% CI 9.7–17.1). Incidence estimates did not vary as a function of assessment method. Incidence of unipolar depressive disorders increased as mean age of the sample increased, but was not associated with sex or IQ.


Conclusions: The results presented in this meta-analysis indicate high rates of unipolar depressive disorders in individuals with ASD. Results suggest the need to assess depression using standardized semi-structured interviews to avoid under-reporting of unipolar depressive disorders in this population. 

Chloe C. Hudson

Queen's University, Canada

Layla Hall

Queen's University

Kate L. Harkness

Professor
Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario, Canada