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Lifetime cost of autism highlights need for resources

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Autism costs analyzed

Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have calculated the lifetime cost of treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that they say could reach 2.4 million per patient. The finding is important because it highlights the need for better resources and allocation of monies to reduce the burden of autism on individuals and families.

The finding included cost of treating autism, with and without intellectual disability, in addition to the financial toll on parent’s ability to work.

Overall economic impact of ASD

“We sought to look at the overall economic effect of ASDs, not just the cost of caring for this population, but also the costs of individual and parental productivity loss across both the U.S. and the U.K.,” says senior author David Mandell, ScD, Director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research and associate professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Penn.

Mandell adds the investigation also separated the cost of caring for those with intellectual disabilities that has a separate financial impact.

The study took into account the cost of autism in the US and the UK and is the result of a collaboration between researchers from Penn State University and the London School of Economics.

The finding, published online today in JAMA Pediatrics, estimated cost of treating autism at $2.4 million in the US and $2.2 million in the UK.

The financial burden is anticipated to be $1.4 million in both the U.S. and the U.K. for those affected without an intellectual disability.

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Based on the assumption that 40 percent of those with autism have an intellectual disability, the cost of care came to $61 billion annually in the US and $4.5 billion per year in the UK.

The numbers jumped to $196 billion in the US and $46 billion in the UK using a 60 percent rate of intellectual disability associated with ASD.

The financial burden for those with ASD without intellectual disability was $1.43 million in the U.S. and $1.36 million in the U.K.

Lost wages a significant contributor to cost of autism

“These numbers provide important information that can help policy makers and advocacy organizations make decisions about how to allocate resources to best serve this population,” says Mandell who added one of the biggest costs worth noting came from parents’ lost wages.

Mandell also stresses the importance of finding ways to help parents of children with autism continue employment.

“This finding makes it imperative that we examine how high-quality intervention can reduce burden on families, allowing them to stay in the work force. It also suggests the need for policies that make the work place more friendly to families of children with disabilities.”

The analysis came from existing literature and included medical and non-medical autism costs, loss of productivity, employment support, special educational needs and accommodation needs for individuals with ASD.

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Wikimedia Commons



This study should be setting off alarm bells everywhere! We need to figure out what is happening to our children!!! At current rates of increase, by 2025, the numbers could be one out of two children! This will bankrupt us!!! Push for research!!! We now know that that ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS are a large part of the puzzle and these have barely been investigated!! If you don't believe this is a crisis, talk to any educator, in any school district, and ask them about the impact on every child's education.
AnnMarie you are 100 percent correct on all counts. Research is sorely needed. Environmental links should be vigorously pursued. Investigating genetic components isn't enough - environment and genes interact to create illness and disorders and chronic diseases and we know this. Thank you for your comment. I pray this will indeed raise alarm.
That's all well and good, but my son's treatment for Leukemia last year alone was 1.8 million... But, I guess kids with cancer isn't as trendy as autism. Too bad, because last time I checked, Autism in and of itself, was not killing 2600 US children every year.