'Alarming' Rise in Type 2 Diabetes in Young People

Peter Russell

August 20, 2018

Type 2 diabetes rates among children and young people in England and Wales have continued to grow, latest figures show.

The number of people aged up to 25 with the condition increased from 507 in 2013-14 to 715 in 2016-17 – an increase of 41%.

Although the numbers are small, experts said the year-on-year increases were "extremely worrying" because type 2 diabetes is normally associated with older people.

Deprivation a Key Factor

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), which co-produced the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit in partnership with the Health Quality Improvement Partnership, said the effects of growing childhood obesity were "starting to bite". The figures showed that 78.6% of children and young people with type 2 diabetes were obese.

The audit said that healthcare professionals and diabetes service commissioners should be aware that children and young people with type 2 diabetes were more likely to be female, from a non-white ethnic background, and living in deprived areas.

Among the other main findings were:

  • Completion rates for health checks were lower for children and young people with type 2 diabetes compared with those with type 1 diabetes

  • The proportion of children and young people with type 2 diabetes receiving all seven key health checks was 21.3%

  • The unadjusted mean and median glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) of children and young people with type 2 diabetes in England and Wales receiving care in a paediatric diabetes unit (PDU) in 2016/17 were 60.2 and 52.0 mmol/mol, respectively

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) was found in 45.6% of children and young people with type 2 diabetes

  • Albuminuria was found in 20.1% of children and young people with type 2 diabetes, just over double the percentage found in young people with type 1 diabetes

  • Of those with type 2 diabetes, 37.4% were referred and seen by expert child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)/psychology services for emotional wellbeing support

  • Only around half (49.4%) of those with type 2 diabetes were recorded as receiving structured patient education, a reduction of 8.4% since 2015/16

Tackling Obesity in Children

Prof Russell Viner, president of the RCPCH, said: "A rise in type 2 diabetes of this magnitude is alarming and shows that the childhood obesity epidemic is starting to bite."

Specialist support for obese children was needed, he said.

Kathryn Kirchner, clinical advisor at Diabetes UK, said: "It is extremely worrying that we are seeing more young people develop type 2 diabetes year on year. Although there are a number of risk factors for type 2 diabetes which are out of our control, one of the most important risk factors is being overweight or obese, which we are able to influence.

"These figures are a stark reminder that we have a collective responsibility to push for the actions outlined in the most recent chapter of [the] Childhood Obesity Plan, including clearer and more consistent food labelling. More than 1 in 5 children is already obese or overweight in their first year of primary school, rising to over 1 in 3 by the time they leave, increasing their risk of type 2 diabetes."

The Local Government Association described the figures as a "sad indictment" of how society had failed to tackle childhood obesity. It called on the Government to reverse £600 million of council funding cuts.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We know the damage obesity causes and are determined to halve childhood obesity by 2030. 

"We've invested billions in public health services and have already removed the equivalent of 45 million kilograms of sugar from soft drinks every year. Our new childhood obesity plan will now get children exercising more in schools and reduce their exposure to sugary and fatty foods."

National Paediatric Diabetes Audit Report 2016-17. Report.


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