Published on 6 June 2024

Huge rise in younger people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes according to new report.

In the last six years the number of people aged under 40 being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has risen by 39%.

A recently published study found that between 2016-17 and 2022-23  cases of type 2 diabetes among under-40s in the UK have increased from 120,000 up to almost 168,000. This represents an increase of more than 47,000. 

The report also found that diagnoses in under-40s are rising significantly faster than among over-40s, for whom the increase was 25% in six years.

Britain has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe. It is estimated that two in three adults are overweight or obese and the NHS spends £6 billion a year treating obesity-related ill-health. That is forecast to rise to £10 billion a year by 2050.

The report was published by Diabetes UK to coincide with Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week (20-26 May).

Developing type 2 diabetes has previously been associated with older people and can be caused by lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise.

However, the report highlighted that cases among under-40s have been on the rise in recent years and are now increasing at a faster rate than among over-40s.  

Person With Tray Of Chips And Drink On The Sofa

Ethnic background and living conditions can also have an impact on risk of developing the condition.

The impact is felt disproportionately by people from the most deprived areas and people from Black and South Asian backgrounds. Children in the most deprived areas are more than five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those in the least deprived areas.   

The report called for the government to take action on serious health conditions linked to obesity and caused by the environment we live in, to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes affecting a younger demographic. 

There are currently 4.4 million people in the UK who live with a diagnosis of diabetes, as of 2022-23.  

Approximately 8% of these cases are type 1 diabetes, and 90% are type 2 diabetes. Other types of diabetes make up the remaining 2% (such as type 3 diabetes and gestational diabetes, which is related to pregnancy).  

It is estimated there could be more than 1.2 million people living with type 2 diabetes who have not yet been diagnosed. This means that more than 5.6 million people now live with diabetes in the UK.  

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.”

NHS England have developed a new e-Learning programme about managing type 2 diabetes in children and young people. 

Access to the Managing type 2 diabetes in children and young people programme is free on the NHS Learning Hub

Find out more about type 2 diabetes

Read the DRWF Healthy eating for diabetes and Exercise and diabetes leaflets here

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