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Rise in type 2 diabetes is ‘alarming’ says report

Rise in type 2 diabetes is ‘alarming’ says report
By Emma Wilkinson
27 May 2024

There has been an ‘alarming’ rise in the number of people under the age of 40 diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in recent years, a charity has warned.

A report from Diabetes UK found a 39% increase in type 2 diabetes in the under 40s since 2016.

While rates are rising across the board, diagnoses in the over 40s have increased by 25%, the report found.

It means there are now an estimated 168,000 under the age of 40 with type 2 diabetes in the UK, 150,000 of those in England, it added.

There are also ‘gross inequalities’ with people from the most deprived areas and those from Black and South Asian backgrounds at higher risk.

Children under 18 in the most deprived areas are now five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those in the least deprived areas, Diabetes UK said.

Among those aged 26 to 39 years with the condition, 32% are from Asian backgrounds and 7% are Black despite them making up 12% and 4% of the general population respectively, the report said.

It also noted that the condition is more aggressive when diagnosed at a younger age who are more likely to go on and develop complications.

Research cited by the report based on data from EU countries has shown that being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 30 years can lead to a drop in life expectancy of up to 13 years.

In addition, there are now 43,000 people out of work due to long-term sickness related to their diabetes – a 79% increase since 2019, the charity said.

The report should be a ‘wake-up call’ to policymakers underlining how serious health conditions linked to obesity are becoming more and more prevalent in a younger demographic, it concluded.

As of 2022/23 there are are nearly 4.4 million people in the UK with a diagnosis of diabetes with 90% type 2. It is estimated another 1.2 million are undiagnosed.

Colette Marshall, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: ‘Diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in people under 40 are rising to alarming levels.

‘It’s a damning indictment of the barriers that many of us face to living a healthy life, where good food is affordable, and exercise isn’t a luxury.

‘There is a generational opportunity to stop this crisis in its tracks and we are calling on all political parties to seize it. We need bold action to reverse the rising trend in type 2 diabetes, overturn our broken food environment and give every child and young person the best possible chance to grow up in good health.’

A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘The NHS has invested significantly in services to help people prevent, manage and, in some cases, reverse type 2 diabetes, including specific support for people under the age of 40 – but it is clear that reversing this trend requires concerted action across industry, government and society to tackle obesity.’

The NHS type 2 diabetes path-to-remission programme is being expanded to cover the whole of England this year, doubling its reach from last year, it was reported earlier this week.

A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.

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