Experiences of social isolation and loneliness in middle-aged and older autistic adults

Stewart, Gavin R.; Luedecke, Emily; Mandy, Will; Charlton, Rebecca A and Happe, Francesca. 2024. Experiences of social isolation and loneliness in middle-aged and older autistic adults. Neurodiversity, ISSN 2754-6330 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

Background: Young autistic people often experience social isolation and loneliness. Despite social isolation and loneliness increasing in later life in non-autistic populations, few studies have examined whether middle-aged and older autistic adults are at an increased likelihood of these experiences.

Methods: 428 adults (51% female, autistic n=265) aged 40-93 (mean age=60.5 years) completed online questionnaires related to their experiences of social isolation, loneliness, and mental health. Group differences and associations were examined.

Results: The autistic group were more socially isolated and lonelier than the non-autistic group. While there were few gender differences in social isolation, women reported being lonelier than men in both groups, including when controlling for age and mental health. While social isolation increased with age in both groups, loneliness only increased with age in the autistic group. For both social isolation and loneliness, the associations with age were significantly stronger in men than women.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that autistic adults may be particularly susceptible to social isolation and loneliness in midlife and older age. While autistic women reported being lonelier, autistic men may be at greater risk of increasing social isolation and loneliness with older age. This study highlights the need for evidence-based interventions to address social isolation and to reduce loneliness for autistic people as they age.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



Social Connectedness, Social Isolation, Loneliness, Autism, Autistic Adults, Midlife, Older Age

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18 March 2024Accepted
17 April 2024Published Online

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Date Deposited:

21 Mar 2024 09:16

Last Modified:

27 Apr 2024 01:12

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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