Charity calls for action to tackle alarming rise in cases of type 2 diabetes among under 40s

By Editor
22nd May 2024
Type 2 diabetes, Type 2 prevention

Cases of younger people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK are rising to ‘alarming levels’, a charity has warned.  

A new report, published by Diabetes UK for Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week (May 20-26), says the Government faces ‘a generational opportunity’ to tackle the crisis with a range of measures, including addressing the factors causing obesity and health inequalities. 

The report reveals there was an almost 40 per cent increase in the number of people under the age of 40 living with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes between 2016-17 and 2022-23.

The charity estimates there are now almost 168,000 people under 40 with the condition in the UK, a rise of more than 47,000 since 2016-17, and says the figures should come as ‘a major wake-up call’ to policymakers.  

It’s also now clear that many thousands more young adults are likely to be living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, after a recent report by the Office for National Statistics estimated that 50 per cent of those aged 16-44 with type 2 diabetes hadn’t yet received a diagnosis.  

Type 2 diabetes has historically been associated with older people. But cases among under 40s have been on the rise in recent years and are now increasing at a faster rate than among over 40s.

The condition is known to have more severe and acute consequences in people under 40 and, without the right treatment and support, it can lead to serious diabetes complications that include kidney failure and heart disease.

Devastatingly, those who develop type 2 diabetes at a younger age are also more likely to die early.  

The findings come as concerns mount about rising ill-health among working age people. 

Diabetes UK says the latest figures confirm an incredibly troubling growing trend, underlining how serious health conditions linked to obesity, caused by the environment we live in, are becoming more and more prevalent in a younger demographic.

The charity’s report, launched at a reception at the Houses of Parliament this week, calls for all political parties to commit to: 

·       Put the building blocks of health in place for every child and young person, including access to green space, affordable, healthy food, and quality housing. 

·       Improve our food environment, which is leading to obesity, by introducing the delayed restrictions on junk food advertising and expanding on the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (sugar tax). 

·       Provide sustainable long-term investment in targeted support programmes for those most at risk of diabetes complications, to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities. 

Colette Marshall is Chief Executive of Diabetes UK. She 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.”

She added: “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.  

“The decisions taken now will not only determine the health of young people today, but also the next generation.” 

Paul Sweet, 55, from Cornwall, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 27. Diabetes complications started to affect him from 2019 when he had a blocked artery in his heart – and he has since spent time in hospital due to complications with his feet.

Paul said: “Type 2 diabetes really has a huge impact on you and the whole family. I’m quite fortunate to have my wife, Tina, but this has been really hard for her because she’s not the best with hospitals. She’s had to try and hold the house together and help with the children. 

“But then you lose your money as well. I’m a self-employed bookkeeper. I’ve been employed before in various accountancy firms but with my illness, with my surgery, I’ve had to give up work, which is really tough.” 

No one thing causes type 2 diabetes. It is caused by a combination of factors. These include genetics, age, bodyweight and where your body stores fat.

The reasons someone develops it will be individual to them. For many people, the odds of getting type 2 diabetes are stacked against them. 

People from the most deprived areas and people from Black and South Asian backgrounds are more likely to develop the condition.

This inequity is exaggerated among younger adults. More than a third of adults under 40 with type 2 diabetes are from the most deprived parts of England.  

Diabetes prevalence figures released today by Diabetes UK show there are nearly 4.4 million people living with a diabetes diagnosis in the UK as of 2022-23.

Approximately 90 per cent of the cases are type 2, about 8 per cent are type 1, with the other forms of the condition make up the remaining two per cent.

Additionally, more than 1.2 million people may be living with type 2 diabetes who haven’t been diagnosed yet, meaning more than 5.6 million people are now living with diabetes in the UK.

It also means the number of people living with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in the UK has tipped over four million for the first time.  

As part of Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week, Diabetes UK is urging people to check their risk of the condition by using the charity’s free, online Know Your Risk tool.

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