Type 2 diabetes is rising rapidly among the under-40s in the UK, with the number of registered cases up by 23% in five years, new analysis reveals.
There are now a record 148,000 people in the UK diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Figures show that the condition, traditionally associated with the older generation, is now rising faster among the under-40s than in those over 40.
The research, commissioned by Diabetes UK and Tesco as part of a joint charitable project to raise awareness of the condition in younger generations, suggests that cases of type 2 diabetes in the under-40s could reach 200,000 in five years.
The Diabetes UK survey found a ‘worrying’ lack of knowledge about the symptoms and health complications of type 2 diabetes in people aged 18-39.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said they didn’t know or weren’t sure what the symptoms were, and 68% did not know how to check if they were at risk of developing the disease.
In addition, more than half of the people surveyed said they had deprioritised their health as a direct result of the current cost of living crisis, and nearly a quarter said they had avoided or put off medical checks.
According to Diabetes UK, type 2 diabetes is ‘the most devastating and fastest growing health crisis of our time’, affecting more people than any other serious health condition in the UK. The condition is known to have more severe and acute consequences in people under 40 and without proper treatment or support can lead to severe complications, including kidney failure and heart disease.
Chris Askew, chief executive at Diabetes UK, said: ‘This trend of rapidly-increasing early-onset type 2 diabetes is incredibly troubling. It marks a shift from what we’ve seen historically and should be taken as a serious warning to policymakers and our NHS.’
He added: ‘If you’re under 40, you’re not immune to type 2 diabetes. It is vital that you check your risk now and that individuals, no matter what their age or background, are given the opportunity to access support to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.’
The charity partnership is urging more people to check their risk of type 2 diabetes through a free online tool. Jason Tarry, CEO of Tesco UK & ROI, is encouraging young people to take the ‘Know Your Risk’ survey either online or at a Tesco pharmacy.
He said: ‘Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common health conditions we face in the UK, but the reality is that many cases could be prevented or delayed. Reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes is doable and affordable, with the right support, and a few simple changes can make a big difference.’