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The Price Of Autism

Michael Ganz, an assistant Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, has examined the cost of autism for US society //and has found that the disease costs a person $3.2 million over the entire life span. Ganz has published his research in the new book Understanding Autism: From Basic Neuroscience to Treatment (CRC Press, 2006). In his study, titled, “The Costs of Autism,” Ganz says that autism costs $35 billion per year for the US economy.

Ganz’s analysis of the costs includes direct and indirect medical costs associated with the disorder. But he believes the $35 billion annual societal cost for caring for and treating people with autism likely underestimates the true costs because there are a number of other services that are used to support individuals with autism, such as alternative therapies and other family out-of-pocket expenses, that are difficult to measure. In addition, Ganz believes that the level of cost could be higher if there were more useful and widespread treatment options available. “Given that the federal autism research budget has been historically less than $100 million per year and given that research budgets for other conditions with similar numbers of affected individuals are sometimes orders of magnitude higher, I hope that my research can help focus more attention on directing more resources toward finding prevention and treatment options for autism,” Ganz said. (For comparison purposes, he notes estimated annual costs of other conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease ($91 billion); mental retardation ($51 billion); anxiety ($47 billion); and schizophrenia ($33 billion).

Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) that involves severe deficits in a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Children with autism often have trouble using their imagination, have a limited range of interests, and may show repetitive patterns of behavior or body movements
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