About 630,000 babies worldwide are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) each year. They’ll need care averaging $23,000 annually, new research suggests.
These children face a range of lifelong problems caused by alcohol exposure during pregnancy, according to the research review.
“People with FASD often require lifelong and multidimensional services to address their ever-changing and complex needs,” Larry Burd, of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and his co-authors reported.
Besides possible birth defects, these children also are at high risk for growth problems, developmental delays, intellectual disability and behavioral disorders.
Fetal alcohol syndrome also increases risk for mental health disorders, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and troubles with the law, the researchers noted.
To assess the economic scope of the problem, the researchers analyzed 32 studies from four countries (Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States).
The findings showed that the average yearly cost of the condition is about $23,000 per child, and $24,000 per adult.
Moreover, the researchers said most cases of FASD are never correctly diagnosed, which means many patients do not receive appropriate treatment.
“While hundreds of thousands of children are born every year with this largely preventable condition, many countries devote less than 1 percent of the cost of caring for people with FASD to its prevention,” Burd’s team explained.
The report was published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
The annual per-person costs of caring for people with FASD are higher than for a number of other common conditions, including autism ($17,000) and diabetes ($21,000), the study authors said in a journal news release.
In an editorial accompanying the report, Dr. Robert Sokol, of Wayne State University in Detroit, wrote: “We need to develop effective prevention and mitigation strategies for FASD. That is the appropriate conclusion from this analysis.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.