Medical and behavioral correlates of depression history in children and adolescents with Autism spectrum disorder

Jessica L. Greenlee, Angela S. Mosley, Amy M. Shui, Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, Katherine O. Gotham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Depression is commonly associated with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) across the life span. We sought to identify medical and behavioral problems associated with a history of a parent-reported diagnosis of depression in a large sample of school-aged children and adolescents with ASD. METHODS: A sample of 1272 participants (aged 6-17 years; mean [SD]: 9.56 [2.79] years) from the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network consortium were divided into "everdepressed" (n = 89) and "nondepressed" (n = 1183) groups on the basis of caregiver endorsement of children's current or previous diagnoses of depression. RESULTS: In total, 7.0% of children with ASD (4.8% of those aged 6-12 years and 20.2% of those aged 13-17 years) were reported to have a history of a depression diagnosis. Positive depression history was associated with greater chronological age, higher IQ, and Asperger disorder diagnosis. After controlling for age, IQ, and within-spectrum categorical diagnosis, the ever-depressed group exhibited significantly greater rates of seizure disorders (odds ratio = 2.64) and gastrointestinal problems (odds ratio = 2.59) and trend-level differences in aggression, somatic complaints, and social impairments. The groups did not differ in Autism severity, repetitive behaviors, sleep problems, eating problems, self-injurious behavior, or current intervention use. CONCLUSIONS: Co-occurring depression is a particularly common problem in higher-functioning older children within the Autism Treatment Network. Our findings indicate that children with ASD and a history of a depression diagnosis are more likely to also have co-occurring medical problems, although the presence and direction of causality is unclear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S105-S114
StatePublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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