‘Autism Tsunami’: Societal Cost of Autism in U.S. Could Hit $5.54 Trillion by 2060, Study Predicts

In a study I co-authored with Mark Blaxill and Cynthia Nevison, we projected autism’s annual costs to the U.S. over the next 40 years will jump from the current $238 billion to $589 billion by 2030, $1.36 trillion by 2040 and $5.54 trillion by 2060.

We calculated future autism annual costs until the year 2060 by looking at four factors:

Historical autism spectrum disorder (ASD) prevalence with time trend data for both severe and full-spectrum rates.
A matrix of cost per individual for multiple categories applied to multiple age cohorts.
Projections of future size of ASD population.
Inflation projections by cost component.

The study, published July 18 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, makes five important contributions to our understanding of the societal costs of the autism epidemic.

They are:

The study has the most up-to-date modeling of ASD prevalence. It shows that based on current trends, the U.S. may well surpass 6% ASD rates in children in 2024, and 7% ASD rates in children in 2032 (36% severe and 64% milder cases).

The model used in this study is fluid and shows how constantly rising prevalence causes ever-increasing costs, and how those costs will move through society over time. Many prior cost models were static or assumed linear increases in prevalence.
The study’s graphing of constantly rising costs over 40 years reveals what we can only describe as a tsunami of autism cases and concomitant costs.

The study shows that ASD-related costs currently borne by parents and local school systems will shift permanently onto federal and state governments, as the parents of the first generation of the epidemic begin to die (sometime around 2040).

According to the study, governments are not planning now for how they will meet this unprecedented challenge in the future.

“Parents know first-hand about the enormous costs of autism,” said lead author Mark Blaxill. “And we worry about what will happen to our kids after we are gone. In every scenario, governments need to raise trillions of dollars in new revenue to pay for services and figure out what is causing the autism epidemic.”

This study provides the first cost-of-autism model that highlights the possibility and importance of autism prevention.

Commenting on the study, Children’s Health Defense President Mary Holland urged elected officials and regulators to “come to the table and work with us in good faith” to keep toxicants out of children’s bodies.

“This study should be a wake-up call to all levels of society,” Holland said. “It’s clear the U.S. is on the road to economic and political disaster if we fail to address the autism epidemic.”

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