Get access

An anxious time? Exploring the nature of worries experienced by young people with a mild to moderate intellectual disability as they make the transition to adulthood


Andrew Jahoda, Centre for Population Health Sciences, Academic Unit for Mental Health and Wellbeing, 1st Floor Admin Building, Gartnavel Royal Hospital, 1055 Great Western Road, Glasgow, G12 0XH (e-mail:


Objectives. Transition to adulthood can be a challenging time for all young people. However, this period of change is likely to be more difficult for those with mild intellectual disabilities (IDs) because they are often more socially marginalized, remain more dependent upon their family, and have fewer options for future careers than their typically developing peers. Therefore, this study examines the content and salience of worries experienced by young people with mild ID during transition to adulthood, and whether the above disadvantages are associated with the level of reported anxiety and their sense of self-efficacy.

Design and Methods. Fifty-two participants (17–20 years) took part; 26 with mild ID and 26 typically developing adults. Of interest were potential differences between groups in (1) worries described; (2) salience of worries; and (3) associations between self-efficacy, anxiety, and worry within groups. Participants completed a ‘worry’ interview, the General Self Efficacy Scale-12 and the Glasgow Anxiety Scale-LD.

Results. It was found that the ID group's most salient worries (being bullied, losing someone they are dependent upon, failing in life, followed by making and keeping friends) were largely different from their non-disabled peers (getting a job, followed by not having enough surplus money, failing, and having to make decisions about their future choices) at this stage of transition. Not only was there a difference in the nature of worries expressed, but the intellectually disabled group also reported ruminating significantly more about their worries and being more distressed by them.

Conclusion. Obtaining insight into worries at transition may help to target efforts at increasing these young people's resilience. Clinical applications of the findings are discussed.