Health and wellbeing

We aim to understand factors that influence the health and wellbeing of Autistic people. These help to inform and enhance supports and practices across the lifespan.

RESEARCH PROGRAM LEADER: Associate Professor Darren Hedley

Researchers: Katy Unwin, Simon Bury, Cheryl Dissanayake, Amanda Richdale, Lauren Lawson, Melanie Muniandy

We achieve these aims through advocacy and policy development, academic research, and working with Autistic people.

We have:

  • trained the workforce to better support the health and wellbeing needs of Autistic workers
  • developed suicide prevention tools and education programs
  • delivered training to allied health professionals
  • conducted research in the areas of anxiety, depression, sleep, and suicide prevention.

The high rate of suicide and co-occurring health and other conditions makes the Autistic community a priority group for action. Policies that improve access to high quality allied healthcare delivered by a trained and experienced workforce are critical. This work needs to be underpinned by high quality research that meets the priorities and goals of Autistic people.


The Suicide Response Project (SRP)

The SRP provides tips for the general public on how to detect and respond to suicide risk in others.

SRP website

In partnership with the Autism CRC, OTARC researchers have validated mental health measures for Autistic adults.

Depression and Anxiety

The Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HADS; Zigmond et al.,1983). The HADS scale measures anxiety and depression symptoms in the past week. Using a sample of 45 SASLA (Australian sample) + 151 UK Transition longitudinal study (UK sample) Autistic adolescents and young adults, we found that the HADS demonstrated statistically similar properties in the Autistic sample to a non-autistic sample, with good Internal consistency.

Clinicians can use the HADS to measure anxiety and depression in Autistic adolescents and young adults aged 14-25 years.

HADS validation article


Patient Health Questionaire-9 (PHQ-9; Kroenke et al., 2001). The PHQ-9 measures depression symptom severity and functional impairment in the last 2 weeks. Using an Australian sample of 346 Autistic + 235 community comparison participants from the SASLA and ALSAA studies ages 15-80 years, we found that the PHQ-9 demonstrated statistically similar properties in the Autistic sample to the non-autistic sample. There was excellent internal consistency for Autistic and community comparison samples.

Clinicians can use the PHQ-9 to measure depression in autistic youth and adults aged 15-80 years.

PHQ-9 validation article

Mental Wellbeing for Autistic Young Adults

The Panel discussion featured OTARC’s Dr Simon Bury, OTARC Affiliate Dr Lauren Lawson and mental health advocate Jessica Davis, and offered practical advice, tips and knowledge for supporting mental wellbeing for Autistic young adults, their family members/carer or supporters and care professionals.

Watch the mental wellbeing discussion