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May 2024

T2D cases top 4 million for first time

The number of people living with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in the UK has tipped over four million for the first time, a charity has warned, with cases of younger people being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK rising to ‘alarming levels’.

To mark Type 2 Diabetes Prevention Week (20-26 May), Diabetes UK released new prevalence figures, which show there are nearly 4.4 million people living with a diabetes diagnosis in the UK as of 2022-23. Approximately 90% of the cases are type 2, about 8% are type 1, with the other forms of the condition make up the remaining 2%. 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.

And a new report, Reverse the Trend, also published by Diabetes UK, reveals there was an almost 40% 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% 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. 

Diabetes UK 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, launched at a reception at the Houses of Parliament, calls for all political parties to commit to improving access to affordable healthy food, introducing the delayed restrictions on junk food advertising and investing in targeted support programmes for those most at risk of diabetes complications.

Practice Nurse 2024;54(3):6