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Cost of autism in Britain


Autism is important because it condemns children to a lifetime of difference. Right now we don’t know the cause, nor do we have any effective remedies. That will change, and at some point decisions will need to be made not only about the effectiveness of any preventive measures or treatments, but also about their cost-effectiveness.

That entails knowing something about the costs of autism. A new study from the Institute of Psychiatry gives us an informed insight [1]. The bottom line is that the cost of autism in Britain is of the order of £1 billion.


The authors performed systematic searches of literature, of various electronic databases, and contacted authors and experts to assemble the package of information on the disorder, its impact on individuals, families and society, and on the costs involved. At each stage of the cost calculations the evidence is outlined in detail.


The main results are shown in Table 1. For a person with autism and additional learning disability the average lifetime costs was £2.94 million. For someone with higher functioning autism the average lifetime cost is £785,000. With an assumed prevalence of autism of five per 10,000 and with 75% of persons with autism having additional learning disability, the annual social cost of autism in Britain is £957 million.

Table 1: Costs of autism in Britain for individuals (lifetime) and society (annual)

Cost category
Individual with learning disability (£) Individual with higher functioning autism (£) UK total
(£ million)
Hospital services 26,600 30,700 11
Medication 3,400 8,300 2
Other health and social servcies 71,600 31,200 25
Living support 2,134,000 312,500 669
Voluntary support 18,800 ---- 5
Special education 179,100 108,300 64
Sheltered work 16,200 67,800 12
Day activities 422,400 74,500 134
Lost productivity --- 137,100 14
Family members time 39,600 14,400 13
Family expenses 30,800 --- 9
Total 2,940,500 784,800 957



This study will be particularly useful in assessing the cost effectiveness of prevention strategies or treatment strategies in future. In the meantime it is a wake up call about the seriousness of autism in financial as well as human terms.


  1. K Järbrink & M Knapp. The economic impact of autism in Britain. Autism 2001 5: 7-22.
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