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Developmental Disabilities
Developmental Disabilities > Mental Retardation > Costs
Mental Retardation

What is the cost or economic impact associated with mental retardation?

Many people with mental retardation need long-term services or care. The average lifetime cost for one person with mental retardation is estimated to be $1,014,000 (in 2003 dollars). This represents costs over and above those experienced by a person who does not have a disability.

It is estimated that the lifetime costs for all people with mental retardation who were born in 2000 will total $51.2 billion (in 2003 dollars).  These costs include both direct and indirect costs. Direct medical costs, such as doctor visits, prescription drugs, and inpatient hospital stays, make up 14% of these costs. Direct nonmedical expenses, such as home modifications and special education, make up 10% of the costs. Indirect costs, which include the value of lost wages when a person dies early, cannot work, or is limited in the amount or type of work he or she can do, make up 76% of the costs.

These estimates do not include other expenses, such as hospital outpatient visits, emergency department visits, residential care, and family out-of-pocket expenses. The actual economic costs of mental retardation are, therefore, even higher than what is reported here.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Economic costs associated with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and vision impairment --- United States, 2003. MMWR 2004;53:57-9. [Read this article on economic costs]

Honeycutt AA, Grosse SD, Dunlap LJ, Schendel DE, Chen H, Brann E, al Homsi G. Economic costs of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and vision impairment. In: Altman BM, Barnartt SN, Hendershot GE, Larson SA, editors. Using survey data to study disability: results from the National Health Interview Survey on Disability. Research in social science and disability, volume 3. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2003. p. 207-28.

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Date: October 29, 2005
Content source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities


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