Background: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the most common inflammatory skin disorder and an important cause of morbidity in young children in the U.K. Such disability produces significant economic burden reflected in direct medical costs associated with health service utilization, direct family care costs such as transport costs, indirect costs associated with loss of productivity of carers, and intangible costs associated with the psychological effects of the disease.
Objectives: In order to evaluate this economic burden we conducted a cross-sectional survey of children aged 1-5 years in the Nottingham area in 1995-96.
Methods: We sent a postal questionnaire to parents of all children aged 1-5 years with questions to identify those with AD; a second questionnaire was sent to parents of identified children regarding costs and utilization of medical services. Intangible costs were not evaluated.
Results: The 12-month period prevalence of AD according to a dermatologist's diagnosis in 1761 children was 16.5% (95% confidence interval 14.7-18.2%). Total mean disease costs were estimated to be pound79.59 per child over the 12-month period of the study. The most significant costs were due to costs to the state for National Health Service (NHS) consultations ( pound28.62 mean annual cost) and prescriptions ( pound22.03). Consultations with general practitioners accounted for the significant bulk of consultation costs, with only 6% of children being seen in secondary care (17 of 290). Most prescribing costs (76%) were due to emollients and bath preparations. Family care costs ( pound28.94 mean annual cost) accounted for 36% of total disease costs and were associated with changes to the home environment, purchase of over-the-counter medicines, transport costs, visits to homoeopaths and salary loss.
Conclusions: The results signify that AD is an important cause of economic burden both to the NHS and to the families of affected children. Using population census data and the results in this study, we estimated that the annual U.K. cost of AD in children aged 1-5 years in 1995-96 was pound47 million.