DAVIS (CBS SF) – Economists at UC Davis say the costs associated with caring for people with autism spectrum disorder in the U.S. could reach more than $260 billion this year and could skyrocket in the next decade.

The study, authored by J. Paul Leigh and Juan Du, analyzed medical costs, residential care, special education and other costs associated with ASD.

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Leigh said in a university statement, “The current costs of ASD are more than double the combined costs of stroke and hypertension and on a par with the costs of diabetes.”

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The researchers said their best estimate for ASD-related “medical, nonmedical and productivity losses” this year is $268 billion. If more effective treatments aren’t found, researchers estimate the cost of care could go up to $461 billion and possibly up to $1 trillion in 2025.

Leigh and Du urged the National Institutes of Health to spend much more on autism research. The economists said the NIH currently spends five times as much on diabetes research compared to autism.

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The study appears in this month’s issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.