Why is Type 2 diabetes on the rise amongst UK under 40s?
By 2030, it is estimated that over five and a half million people in the UK will be living with diabetes. 
And whilst Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for the majority of cases, has traditionally been seen as a disease of the over 40s; worryingly the rate of increase in the disease in the under 40s is now faster than that of the over 40s. So much so that -
Diabetes UK estimates that by 2027 some 200,000 individuals aged under forty could be living with the disease.
What is behind the increase in diabetes in younger adults? Is it a lack of knowledge, lifestyle choices or something else? Well, according to Diabetes UK a lack of awareness of diabetes risk factors and symptoms is certainly a cause for concern with two-thirds of adults under 40 being unaware of their own diabetes risk. That’s why Diabetes UK has launched a ‘know your risk’ tool which can help individuals to assess whether they need to be making the right lifestyle changes which could help to prevent diabetes development.
In tandem with that launch, Tesco shared the results of a survey which revealed that 57% had deprioritised their health as a result of the current cost of living crisis. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is one of the key mechanisms for reducing the chance of developing diabetes, particularly when taken in tandem with regular exercise. With individuals paying less attention to their health and nutritional intake, the risk of a further rise in diabetes numbers is even higher.
That brings us on to obesity.
A 2022 World Health Organisation report commented that overweight and obesity, which are risk factors for diabetes, now affect almost 60% of adults in Europe.
Moreover, the prevalence of overweight and obese children increased during the covid pandemic. This again is a cause for concern, with overweight youngsters more likely to lead to overweight adults, thereby increasing the likelihood of Type 2 diabetes, unless swift action is taken.
That’s the aim of the NHS diabetes prevention programme which has been running since 2018. Research released in March 2022 revealed that the programme reduces the chance of an individual developing diabetes by 37%. With diabetes currently accounting for some ten per cent of the entire NHS budget, any reduction in diabetes cases is good news not only for the individuals affected and their families but also for the country as a whole.
However, we shouldn’t be complacent.
Having Type 2 diabetes before the age of forty increases the chance of developing the more severe complications which can arise as a result of the disease including blindness or limb amputation.
That’s why knowing our risks and taking action is so important. Actions taken now could just help to stave off the development of diabetes and that in turn could have a profound impact on our overall health throughout our lifetime.
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