Understanding subjective quality of life of adults with high autistic traits and average cognitive functioning: An examination of individual and contextual predictors

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University of New Brunswick


Quality of life is a multidimensional construct that encompasses an individual’s perception of their position across a variety of life domains including physical health, psychological well-being, social relationships, and personal beliefs and values, all in relation to their current environment and culture (Ayres et al., 2017; WHO, 1997). The present study assessed quality of life of adults with high autistic traits and average cognitive functioning (AST). To address limitations in previous work, life satisfaction, global and domain-specific (i.e., psychological; social; physical; environmental) quality of life were explored in a large sample of adults with AST. In line with a bioecological framework, both individual (i.e., sex; level of autism spectrum traits; co-occurring mental health disorders; self-efficacy; sense of coherence) and contextual (i.e., levels of support, employment status; leisure engagement, leisure satisfaction) factors were assessed in predicting quality of life. In addition to direct relationships, potential indirect relationships between leisure satisfaction and leisure engagement, and quality of life were examined. Data were collected online, internationally, from 131 formally and self-diagnosed adults with AST. Domain-specific quality of life was lower compared to published normative data. Sense of coherence predicted all six domains of quality of life; leisure satisfaction predicted the social and psychological domains of quality of life; biological sex predicted life satisfaction and social quality of life; adaptive skills predicted environmental quality of life; level of ASD traits predicted global quality of life; employment status predicted life satisfaction. Finally, leisure satisfaction was found to significantly mediate the relationship between leisure engagement and higher quality of life. Implications for understanding and improving quality of life among adults with AST are discussed, including the emergence of two underlying themes: the key role of social functioning and the importance of considering the perspective of the individual.