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Number of people living with diabetes in the UK tops 5 million for the first time

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The number of people living with diabetes has topped five million for the first time, our analysis shows.

We are calling on the government to ensure that national and local health systems put diabetes at the heart of their plans ensuring they identify more people at risk of type 2 diabetes, reduce health inequalities, and target communities where diabetes prevalence is high.     

Our new figures show that 4.3 million people are now living with a diagnosis of diabetes in the UK. Registration figures for 2021-22 are up by 148,951 from 2020-21, and more than 2.4 million people are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the UK. 

We know that approximately 90% of diagnoses are of type 2 diabetes, and around 8% of diagnoses are type 1 diabetes, with the other forms of the condition making up the remaining 2%.

We estimate there are an additional 850,000 people living with diabetes who are yet to be diagnosed, bringing the overall UK-wide figure beyond five million. 

Why this analysis is important  

Without the right care and support, people with all types of diabetes can be at risk of developing serious complications. Every week, diabetes leads to 184 amputations, more than 770 strokes, 590 heart attacks and 2,300 cases of heart failure.      

This is why these new diabetes statistics makes for such concerning reading. 

We are still not sure what causes type 1 diabetes, but the risk factors of type 2 diabetes are multiple and complex. They include age, family history and ethnicity, as well as living with overweight or obesity. 

We are worried that the high numbers of people living with overweight or obesity across the UK – currently 64% of adults in England – is translating into an increase in cases of type 2.  

Social deprivation is also an issue. Factors such as income, education, housing, access to healthy food, as well as poorer access to healthcare, have been shown to be strongly linked to an increased risk of developing several health conditions – including obesity and type 2 diabetes.     

Alarmingly, type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common among those under the age of 40 and it is more prevalent in areas where there are higher levels of deprivation. While numbers of under 40s with type 2 diabetes remain a small proportion of total cases, it is known to have more severe and acute effects on younger people.      

It doesn’t have to be this way 

We are calling for a firm commitment to diabetes in the government’s Major Conditions Strategy, including a continued focus on identifying those at high risk of type 2 diabetes and ensuring they are supported to reduce their risk by referral to the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme.   

We also want to see the government push ahead with its stalled obesity strategy without further delay, including implementing delayed plans to limit junk food advertising to children, to stop people being pushed towards unhealthy food options.    

Chris Askew OBE, our Chief Executive, said:

“Diabetes is serious, and every diagnosis is life changing. It’s a relentless condition, and the fear of serious complications is a lifelong reality for millions of people across the UK. 

“These latest figures show we’re in the grip of a rapidly escalating diabetes crisis, with spiralling numbers of people now living with type 2 diabetes and millions at high risk of developing the condition. 

“But it doesn’t have to be this way. With the right care and support, cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented or put into remission. What we need to see is the will, grit and determination from government and local health leaders to halt this crisis in its tracks and improve the future health of our nation for generations to come.” 

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes is important. They include the 4Ts of: 

  • Toilet (going for a wee a lot, especially at night) 
  • Thirsty (being really thirsty) 
  • Tired (feeling more tired than usual) 
  • Thinner (losing weight without trying). 

You can understand your personal risk of type 2 diabetes by using our free, online Know Your Risk tool. It takes just a few minutes to complete and advises you on your risk and suggests next steps to help reduce your risk.     

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