A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2023 | Number 2, Volume 37

Health anxiety common among adults with ASD, autistic traits

Health anxiety—an excessive and irrational worry about having a serious health condition—is more common in adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) than in non-autistic adults, according to a new study from the United Kingdom. 

John Galvin and Gareth Richards used a self-report questionnaire to measure health anxiety in 110 autistic and 110 non-autistic adults. They also obtained information on the participants’ sex, age, ethnicity, medical diagnoses, comorbid diagnoses, and autistic traits. 

Their findings showed that health anxiety was significantly higher in autistic than non-autistic adults, with nearly one in three autistic participants reporting clinically significant levels. Health anxiety also was significantly higher in females than males in both groups. In addition, the researchers say, “Positive correlations were found between autistic traits and health anxiety in both autistic and non-autistic subsamples, and these relationships remained statistically significantly after controlling for covariates.” 

The researchers conclude, “The observed positive correlations between autistic traits and health anxiety suggest that clinicians may wish to consider autistic traits in the early stages of assessment and treatment planning for patients with and without an autism diagnosis who are experiencing health anxiety/hypochondria.”

They note, however, that their study has several limitations. For instance, they say, “[T]he higher rates of health anxiety reported by the autistic sample might reflect, to some extent at least, an actual increased rate of comorbid health issues within this group.” They also note that they collected their data after the COVID-19 pandemic began, which may have influenced the results.

The researchers found that health anxiety was significantly higher in autistic than non-autistic adults, with nearly one in three autistic participants reporting clinically significant levels.

Citations

“Health anxiety in autistic adults,” John Galvin and Gareth Richards, Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, April 3, 2023 (free online). Address: John Galvin, [email protected].