Gavin Stewart

Thesis title:

Ageing, Social Cognition and Autism Spectrum Disorders (a CASE project with Autistica & Meet Me at the Albany)


This study will explore how social understanding skills change with age, whether these changes precede age-related decline of memory and other aspects of cognition, and what impact they have on mental and physical health and wellbeing. To do this we will be working with older autistic adults, and with the PROTECT study, an online study of >5,000 older adults (aged 50+) collecting longitudinal information on ageing and cognitive change.Social isolation and loneliness in old age are associated with lower well-being, and higher levels of depression/anxiety. It has also been linked to greater age-related decline of various cognitive (e.g. memory) abilities, and increased risk of dementia. If social abilities decrease with old age, this may contribute to isolation – or vice versa – leading to worse mental and physical health.Autistic adults, who have clinical-level social difficulties, often report feeling lonely, which is associated with depression and anxiety. This may put them at greater risk of age-related cognitive decline, and dementia. Very little is known about old age in autism.By creating new tests of social understanding to use online and in person, this study aims to explore whether poor social skills are linked to cognitive decline and quality of life in old age.

First supervisor:

Francesca Happe

CASE partner:

Autistica & Meet Me At The Albany


2 – Life Course, Psychology, & Health