A Network Perspective on the Relationship Between ASD and Depression Symptoms in Older Adults: The Role of Mastery & Worry

Thursday, May 11, 2017: 5:30 PM-7:00 PM
Golden Gate Ballroom (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
B. F. van Heijst1, M. K. Deserno2, H. C. Comijs3 and H. M. Geurts4, (1)University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (2)Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (3)Psychiatry, GGZ inGeest, Amsterdam, Netherlands, (4)University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

ASD and depression often co-occur: adults with ASD have a high incidence of depression (Croen et al., 2015; Lever & Geurts, 2016) and among depressed older adults, ASD characteristics are much higher than for non-depressed older adults (Geurts, Stek & Comijs, 2016). However, what remains unclear is how depression and ASD relate to each other. By using network analyses we aim to determine whether ASD and depression symptom clusters are strongly interconnected or whether this co-occurrence is due to a mutual relationship (i.e., bridge symptom-cluster) with another construct. We hypothesize that the latter is the case. As there is a strong connection of mastery (perceived control over life’s stressors) and worry with depression, these are likely candidates to serve as bridge symptom-clusters.


To gain insight into the relationship between ASD and depression, and investigate the role of mastery and worry.


We made use of an existing dataset from The Netherlands study of depression in older persons (NESDO; Comijs et al., 2011) that focused on depressed and non-depressed older persons (N=376, age M=69.9, 60-90 years) without an ASD diagnosis. Participants were assessed on ASD symptoms (AQ-28), depression severity (IDS-SR), worry (Worry Scale-R) and mastery (Pearlin Mastery Scale). The structure of the association network and centrality indices are the outcome measures. Further analysis (e.g. network reliability, concentration network) will be completed before the IMFAR conference.

Preliminary Results:

Visual inspection of the network shows some direct connections between ASD and depression, the strongest direct relation is between Motivation (IDS-SR) and Routine ( AQ-28). ASD (AQ-28) relates to Worry. However, this is specific for Social Worry, which has the strongest connection to Social Skills (AQ-28). Social Worry further connects to depression (IDS-SR), and Mastery. Centrality analysis show that Mastery ranks among the most central nodes in the network.

Preliminary Conclusions:

Mastery so far seems to be a more likely candidate as a bridge symptom than worry per se, although social worries also play an important role. However, there is also a clear direct relationship between ASD and depression. Although speculative, the feeling of being in control of life’s stressors, and worries about one’s social life could both be important targets when treating people with depression and ASD. A future research avenue is to determine whether a similar network can be replicated in ASD sample. It is, however, likely that networks converge across different samples.