Study Quantifies Childhood ASD-Linked Economic Burden

(HealthDay News) — Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses are associated with increased health care and non-health care costs, including school costs, according to a study published online February 10 in Pediatrics.

Tara A. Lavelle, PhD, from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, and colleagues used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey linked to the National Health Interview Survey and a study-specific survey to estimate the annual utilization and costs and caregiver time for children aged 3–17 years with and without ASD.

The researchers found that levels of health care office visits and prescription drug use were higher for children with parent-reported ASD versus those without (P<0.05). Special educational services were used by a greater proportion of children in the ASD group than in the control group (76 versus 7%; P<0.05). ASD correlated with increased health care costs of $3,020 and increased aggregate non-health care costs of $14,061, including $8,610 higher school costs, after adjustment for child demographic characteristics and non-ASD-linked illnesses. Compared with control parents, parents who reported that their child had ASD did not have significantly higher out-of-pocket costs or spend more time on caregiving activities, in adjusted analyses.

“The economic burden associated with ASD is substantial and can be measured across multiple sectors of our society,” the authors write.

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