Published on 28 November 2018

Huge rise in young people diagnosed with the condition linked to being overweight.

More than 6,500 people under the age of 25 in England and Wales are estimated to have type 2 diabetes according to a new study leading healthcare experts to call for urgent action to encourage healthier lifestyles.

The shocking figures present a much bleaker picture of the condition than recent studies – with the number of young people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes now around 10 times more than reported earlier this year.

Healthcare professionals have raised concern that developing type 2 diabetes at such a young age could lead to an increased risk of developing some of the health complications linked to the condition that can affect eyes, feet and teeth.

The latest report was published by Diabetes UK with 6,836 children and young adults reported to have type 2 diabetes treated in GP practices for the condition in 2016-17.

The figure presents an increase of almost ten times higher than the number reported by the National Paediatrics Diabetes Audit earlier this year where 715 children and young people under the age of 25 were reportedly having received care for type 2 diabetes from Paediatric Diabetes Units in England and Wales. 

Factors in developing type 2 diabetes can include being overweight and not getting enough exercise. Family history of the condition and ethnic background are also risk factors. However, the condition is not usually expected to develop and be diagnosed until much later in life.

Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “When the RCPCH’s paediatric diabetes audit launched in the summer, we were concerned then that the numbers of children we were seeing with type 2 diabetes was an underestimate. This latest analysis, which takes primary care contacts into consideration, shows these concerns were justified and emphasises the need to act.

“For many children, the development of type 2 diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes but this isn’t easy - they need support. That’s why we were pleased to see the ambitious proposals set out in chapter two of the childhood obesity plan. We urge the Government to maximise their impact by introducing them all and doing so quickly.”

Simon Pickup, Managing Director at digital health platform Liva Healthcare, said: “It’s both shocking and sad to witness the significant increase in type 2 diabetes amongst children and young adults.

“Type 2 diabetes is wholly preventable and also reversible. Lifestyle interventions are proven to be an effective way of reversing type 2 diabetes and also gives responsibility back to patients to manage their own health. Especially amongst this younger generation, utilising digital tools which they are accustomed to using – such as app trackers and instant messaging – can enable them to make and maintain these lifestyle changes, whilst keeping them engaged at all times.”

Find out more about type 2 diabetes
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