The minority stress model (MSM) suggests that marginalised minorities are exposed to excess stress resulting in health inequalities and is useful for understanding the high rate of mental illness in the autistic community. Similarly, intra-community connectedness (being connected to other autistic people) has been shown to weaken the impact of perceived stigma on both depression and suicidality. No previous research has investigated the utility of the MSM for understanding mental health and autistic community connectedness for autistic people over time. Thus, the present study aimed to answer whether exposure to exposure to minority stress is associated with worse mental health and wellbeing, and whether higher connectedness with the autistic community is associated with better mental health over time in the autistic population.
Overall, 99 autistic participants took park in the longitudinal study, in which participants completed a survey on two occasions, nine months apart. The survey measured: demographics, general stress, minority stress, autistic community connectedness, wellbeing and psychological distress.
The results found that higher exposure to minority stress reported at time one was associated with significantly worse mental health at follow-up. Conversely, higher ‘outness’ (being ‘out’ as autistic) at time one predicted significantly better wellbeing at the second time point. Furthermore, higher rates of autistic community connectedness at time one was associated with significantly higher emotional, social and psychological wellbeing at time two, as well as significantly lower psychological distress. This research demonstrates the continued utility of the MSM and community connectedness for understanding wellbeing in the autistic community.
Check out the poster here: