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‘Alarming’ rise in type 2 diabetes among under 40s

Almost 168,000 people under 40 are living with the condition in the UK, reflecting a ‘troubling growing trend’ of serious health conditions in young people

Cases of type 2 diabetes in people under 40 have increased by 40% between 2016-17 and 2022-23, according to a new report by Diabetes UK. This increase comes as the number of people living with the condition in the UK crosses 4.4 million.

The charity said the numbers highlight the ‘troubling growing trend’ of obesity leading to serious health conditions, which have more severe consequences in younger people and can lead to kidney failure and heart disease without the right treatment and support.

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.’

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The report found that 81% of children with type 2 diabetes aged 18 and under are living with obesity and 10% are overweight. This is largely because of easy access to foods high in salt, sugar and fat and rising costs of healthy food.

The report also highlighted ‘gross inequalities’, with people from the most deprived areas and those from black and South Asian backgrounds more likely to develop diabetes. Children under 18 in the most deprived areas are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those in the least deprived areas. Moreover, of adults under 40 with type 2 diabetes in the deprived areas, 32% are from Asian backgrounds and 7% are Black.

Published for type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week (May 20-26), the report said the Government faces ‘a generational opportunity’ to tackle the crisis with a range of measures, including addressing the factors causing obesity and health inequalities. 

It has called politicians to ‘improve access to green space, affordable, healthy food, and quality housing, expand on the success of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (sugar tax) and provide sustainable long-term investment in targeted support programmes for those most at risk of diabetes complications.’

A spokesman 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.'