A qualitative study of autistic adults’ quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns

Stewart, Gavin R.; Leoni, Marguerite; Charlton, Rebecca A; Pickard, Hannah R and Happe, Francesca. 2023. A qualitative study of autistic adults’ quality of life during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Autism in Adulthood, 5(3), pp. 311-324. ISSN 2573-9581 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

With autistic individuals experiencing greater rates of most mental health conditions, the periods of national lockdown endured since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic may have been particularly challenging. We explored autistic adults’ experience of quality of life and wellbeing during the pandemic. In total, 79 autistic adults from the UK, aged 21-75 years, took part. Participants completed an online survey, including open text questions on how various factors influencing quality of life such as social interactions, general health and wellbeing and sensory experiences were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thematic analysis identified three main themes were identified; health and wellbeing, social life and support networks, and the impact on daily life and functioning. Many participants discussed concerns regarding the transition out of lockdown, including readjusting to new rules, going back to in-person interactions, and re-acclimatising to high-stimulation sensory environments. A substantial minority reported positive experiences of lockdown, linked to reduced commuting, more control over sensory environments, and more time to pursue personal interests. These findings highlight the importance of giving autistic individuals the support they need to transition back to “normality” as lockdowns lift.

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Acknowledgements: This paper represents independent research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) via the London Interdisciplinary Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership


Autism, Autistic Adults, COVID-19 Pandemic, Quality of Life, Qualitative

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23 December 2022Accepted
2 March 2023Published Online
September 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2023 09:23

Last Modified:

22 Sep 2023 03:59

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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