A new study has found that caring for just one person with autism throughout their lifetime can range from $1.4 to $2.4 million, when factors such as lost wages, residential care and special education are taken into consideration.
Medical care also plays a role in pushing these costs, but is not the main factor, study senior author David Mandell said, director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
Lost wages are a critical component to driving up the lifetime cost of autism, as parents leave their jobs to care for their autistic children and adults with the disorder fail to find or maintain employment Mandell said.
Other major detrimental losses to income include the expense of special education for children and residential care for adults.
“When we think about what is needed to support people with autism, we so often look to medical care for that support,” he said. “I think this shows there are other places we need to look as well.”
In the study, researchers selected a wide pool to gather data on a variety of economic concerns related to autism spectrum disorder, in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
The investigators found that the average lifetime cost to care with someone with autism without intellectual disabilities is about $1.4 million in both the U.S. and the U.K.
People that have autism with intellectual disabilities cost about $2.4 million during their lifetime in the U.S. and about $2.2 million in the U.K.
Medical care for children with autism can range from $6,467 to $18,106 a year, depending on the age of the child and the level of intellectual disability. For adults with autism, medical costs raise even higher between $13,580 to $27,159 annually, according to the study.
Residential care is the highest expense for adults with autism, costing between $18,080 and $36,161 annually – more than twice the amount spent on medical care. Lost wages for adults with autism can reach up to $10,718 a year, the study authors said.
The study findings were published online June 9 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.