Prevalence of comorbid depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in children with autism spectrum disorder and elevated anxiety symptoms

J Child Adolesc Ment Health. 2019 May;31(1):77-84. doi: 10.2989/17280583.2019.1608830. Epub 2019 May 20.

Abstract

Objective: Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have comorbid depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. The aim of this study was to examine levels of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in a sample of children with ASD, normal cognitive functioning and elevated anxiety. Methods: In total, 93 children aged 8-16 years with ASD and with normal cognitive functioning and (sub)clinical anxiety symptoms participated in the present study. Both parents and children filled in questionnaires to measure the level of depressive symptoms. Moreover, children reported their level of suicidal ideation. Results: More than 35% of the children with ASD reported clinical levels of depressive symptoms while, according to parents, even more than 75% of these children showed clinical levels of depressive symptoms. Girls reported significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than boys. Moreover, 32.2% of the children with ASD and anxiety had suicidal thoughts and 2.2% of the children showed active suicidal ideation. No gender differences were found in suicidal ideation. Conclusions: The findings indicated that children with ASD, normal cognitive functioning and anxiety symptoms have an increased prevalence of clinical depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Therefore, depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation should be assessed when working with anxious children with ASD.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Suicidal Ideation*