HealthDay News — The annual cost of caring for Americans with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might reach $500 billion by 2025, with outside estimates approaching $1 trillion, according to a study published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Health economists at the University of California, Davis, analyzed national data and concluded that costs will range from $162 billion to $367 billion in 2015, with $268 billion being their best estimate.

“The current costs of ASD are more than double the combined costs of stroke and hypertension, and on a par with the costs of diabetes,” senior author Paul Leigh, PhD, a professor of public health sciences and a researcher with the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at UC Davis, said in a university news release.

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By 2025, ASD costs will range from $276 billion to $1 trillion, with $461 billion being the researchers’ best estimate. The cost estimates include health services, residential care, in-home care, special education, transportation, employment support, and lost productivity. The cost forecasts in the study are based on the assumption that effective interventions and treatments for ASD will not be identified or widely available by 2025.

“There should be at least as much public research and government attention [paid] to finding the causes and best treatments for ASD as there is for these other major diseases,” Leigh added.

He stressed the need for significant policy changes that emphasize early intervention to reduce ASD symptoms, along with employment and other programs to support independent living for adults with ASD. “This approach would ultimately save money that otherwise would be spent on expensive custodial care,” Leigh said.


Leigh JP and Du J. Brief Report: Forecasting the Economic Burden of Autism in 2015 and 2025 in the United States. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015; 2015; doi: 10.1007/s10803-015-2521-7.