The monetary cost of autism

moneyLifetime costs for supporting a person with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and learning disability (intellectual disability) can top £1.5 million in the United Kingdom (UK) or $2.4 million in the United States (US) according to new research jointly published by researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia*. The cost of supporting someone with an ASD without learning disability was estimated at around £900,000 or $1.4 million over a lifetime with a substantial part of that amount being due to “individual productivity loss” (lost employment).

Based on the analysis of various data including the estimated prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and service and support cost information, investigators produced an estimate of the direct and indirect costs of ASD with and without the presence of accompanying learning disability. They concluded that more needs to be done to better coordinate services and “to search for effective interventions that make best use of scarce societal resources”.

Various media outlets were quick to report on the findings by Ariane Buescher and colleagues. The UK BBC went with the headline: Autism costs ‘£32bn per year’ in UK making reference to the cumulative annual costs of autism “in terms of treatment, lost earnings, and care and support for children and adults with ASD”. Other media headlines talked about how “Study says cost of autism more than cancer, strokes and heart disease” according to The Guardian based in the UK. Discussions have also broken out at the disparities in autism research funding in the UK compared with the research budgets for cancer, heart disease and stroke which receive significantly more funding.


* Buescher AVS. et al. Costs of Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United Kingdom and the United States. JAMA Pediatrics. 2014. June 9.

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