Bullying can increase depressive symptoms among autistic teenagers more than genetic differences, a new study suggests.
"Bullying can be detrimental to anyone's mental health, but young people with social communication difficulties and other autistic traits seem to be particularly vulnerable," said co-author Alan Emond, Professor at the University of Bristol in Britain.
"To protect autistic children and young people a whole school approach is needed to prevent bullying, coupled with targeted support for vulnerable individuals."
For the study, published in the journal Jama Psychiatry, the researchers used information of 6,091 young people from the Children of the 90s longitudinal study.
The researchers also found that children with autism and those with autistic traits had more symptoms of depression when they were 10 years older than their peers, and it continued at least up to the age of 18.
The researchers did not find any link between having higher genetic tendencies towards autism and depressive symptoms.
"More research needs to be done to understand other pathways contributing to the risk of depression in autism across the life course," said co-author Dheeraj Rai from the University of Bristol.
The findings suggest that focusing on the role of traumatic experiences such as bullying could be important and may have the potential to make a real difference to the well-being of autistic people, Rai noted.