WEDNESDAY, July 29, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The annual cost of caring for Americans with autism might reach $500 billion by 2025, a new study estimates, with outside estimates approaching $1 trillion.
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 [autism] are more than double the combined costs of stroke and hypertension, and on a par with the costs of diabetes," study senior author Paul Leigh, 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.
By 2025, autism costs will range from $276 billion to $1 trillion, with $461 billion being the researchers' best estimate, according to the study published online July 28 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
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 autism 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 [autism] as there is for these other major diseases," Leigh added.
He stressed the need for significant policy changes that emphasize early intervention to reduce autism symptoms, along with employment and other programs to support independent living for adults with autism.
"This approach would ultimately save money that otherwise would be spent on expensive custodial care," Leigh said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.