The lifetime cost of caring for just one individual with autism can be as high as $2.4 million, researchers say.
Expenses range from $1.4 million for individuals with autism alone to $2.4 million for those on the spectrum who also have intellectual disability, according to findings published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
For the study, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics analyzed previous research on people with autism and their families to assess the overall costs and economic impact of autism.
The resulting estimates include everything from the price of medical treatments to costs related to schooling and employment supports. The figures also factor in lost wages for individuals with autism — who often struggle to find work as adults — as well as their caregivers.
Spending on special education, housing during adulthood and indirect costs like lost productivity were the biggest contributors to the million-dollar price tag, the study found.
Researchers said the findings highlight the need for interventions specifically geared toward helping adults with autism and approaches early in life that may lessen the need for long-term care.
“These numbers provide important information that can help policymakers and advocacy organizations make decisions about how to allocate resources to best serve this population,” said David Mandell of the University of Pennsylvania, the study’s senior author, adding that it’s “imperative that we examine how high-quality intervention can reduce burden on families.”