Project ID NS-MH2024_44


Co Supervisor 1A Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, School of Mental Health & Psychological Sciences, Department of PsychologyWebsite

Co Supervisor 1B Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, School of Mental Health & Psychological Sciences, Department of PsychologyWebsite

A Biopsychosocial Approach to Understanding Mental Health Outcomes in Autism

Autistic people experience substantial health disparity, including both poorer mental (e.g., depression) and physical (e.g., long-term conditions) health compared to non-autistic people. There is also substantial variability in these health outcomes within the autistic population. However, little is known about how mental and physical health interact in autism – particularly, how physical health contributes to mental health outcomes – and the mechanisms that underpin within-autism variability. Integrating mental and physical health, this multi-method project will investigate biopsychosocial mechanisms that contribute to variability in mental health outcomes in autistic people, by:

1) Using existing longitudinal data to test how health behaviours (e.g., physical activity) predict longitudinal trajectories of mental health in autism.
2) Generating novel data to test how cognitive and behavioural responses to core autistic characteristics (e.g., sensory sensitivities) contribute to mental health outcomes, using a health psychology framework.

Overall, this innovative research will provide a more holistic understanding of health in autism, and inform much needed tailored mental and physical health support for autistic people; for example, highlighting which interventions might work for which individuals. Importantly, to maximise the impact of the research for the autism community, a co-development group of autistic adults will meaningfully inform the research at all stages.

Skill Development: systematic review; advanced quantitative data analysis; participatory research

Year 1: Systematic review on health disparities in autism; longitudinal analysis training
Year 2: Study 1 analysis of longitudinal dataset; Study 2 data collection in autistic people (examining the associations between cognitive and behavioural responses to core autistic characteristics, health behaviours and mental health outcomes)
Year 3+: Study 2 data analysis; finalise thesis

Representative Publications

Thapar, A., Livingston, L. A., Eyre, O., & Riglin, L. (2023). Attention?deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder: The importance of depression. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 64(1), 4-15.

Livingston, L. A., Waldren, L. H., Walton, E., & Shah, P. (2022). Emotion processing differences mediate the link between sex and autistic traits in young adulthood. JCPP Advances, 2(3), e12096.

Livingston, L. A., Shah, P., & Happé, F. (2019). Compensatory strategies below the behavioural surface in autism. The Lancet Psychiatry, 6(9), 766-777.

Picariello, F., Chilcot, J., Chalder, T., Herdman, D., Moss-Morris, R (2023). The Cognitive and Behavioural Responses to Symptoms Questionnaire (CBRQ): Development, Reliability and Validity across several Long-Term Conditions. British Journal of Health Psychology, 28(2), 619-638.

Cogley, C., Carswell, C., Bramham, K., Chilcot, J (2022). Chronic Kidney Disease and Severe Mental Illness: Addressing disparities in Access to Healthcare and Health Outcomes. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 17(9) 1413-1417.

Chilcot, J., Guirguis, A., Friedli, K., Almond, M., Day, C., Da Silva-Gane, M., Davenport, A., Fineberg, N.A., Spencer, B., Wellsted, D., & Farrington, K. (2018). Depression symptoms in haemodialysis patients predict all-cause mortality but not kidney transplantation: a cause-specific outcome analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 52(1), 1-8.