The Lifetime Distribution of the Incremental Societal Costs of Autism | Autism Spectrum Disorders | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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April 2007

The Lifetime Distribution of the Incremental Societal Costs of Autism

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Abt Associates Inc, Lexington, and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(4):343-349. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.4.343

Objective  To describe the age-specific and lifetime incremental societal costs of autism in the United States.

Design  Estimates of use and costs of direct medical and nonmedical care were obtained from a literature review and database analysis. A human capital approach was used to estimate lost productivity. These costs were projected across the life span, and discounted incremental age-specific costs were computed.

Setting  United States.

Participants  Hypothetical incident autism cohort born in 2000 and diagnosed in 2003.

Main Outcome Measures  Discounted per capita incremental societal costs.

Results  The lifetime per capita incremental societal cost of autism is $3.2 million. Lost productivity and adult care are the largest components of costs. The distribution of costs over the life span varies by cost category.

Conclusions  Although autism is typically thought of as a disorder of childhood, its costs can be felt well into adulthood. The substantial costs resulting from adult care and lost productivity of both individuals with autism and their parents have important implications for those aging members of the baby boom generation approaching retirement, including large financial burdens affecting not only those families but also potentially society in general. These results may imply that physicians and other care professionals should consider recommending that parents of children with autism seek financial counseling to help plan for the transition into adulthood.