Rise in obesity the main driver, with family history and ethnic background playing a part.
According to our new analysis, 6,836 children and young adults have been reported to have Type 2 diabetes in England and Wales. The latest figures for 2016-17 show the number of under 25s treated in GP practices for the condition.
This shocking figure is almost ten times higher than the 715 children and young people under the age of 25 receiving care for Type 2 diabetes from Paediatric Diabetes Units in England and Wales that have been recently reported, as more than 6,000 cases that are treated in primary care have also been taken into account.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong condition that leads to serious complications such as blindness, amputations, heart disease and kidney failure. It usually develops over the age of 40 in White Europeans or after 25 in people who are African-Caribbean, Black African, or South Asian.
The condition is much more aggressive in children and young people than in adults, with a higher overall risk of complications that tend to appear much earlier. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, the risk of developing Type 2 is greatly increased by being overweight or obese. Family history and ethnic background are also risk factors.
With more than a third of children in England (34%) overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, thousands more could be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in the next few years.
What needs to be done
We are calling on the government to enact measures laid out in its childhood obesity plan to ban junk food advertising on TV to children before 9pm and restrict supermarket price promotions for unhealthy foods.
NHS funding for the prevention of Type 2 diabetes and improvement of care services should continue to reflect the seriousness of the growing diabetes crisis in order to radically improve health outcomes for future generations.
We are also urging the NHS to provide appropriate specialist services to support children and young people with Type 2 diabetes to manage the condition and reduce the risk of serious complications.
Bridget Turner, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Diabetes UK, said:
“Type 2 diabetes can be devastating for children and young people. To help shape a future where fewer children develop the condition, we need continued commitment across society to create an environment that reduces obesity.
“We need to encourage healthy living by providing clear and easy to understand nutritional information about the products we are all buying, and protect children from adverts for foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
“At the same time, we must look after those who already have the condition so they can avoid serious complications such as amputations, sight loss, stroke and kidney failure.
“Children and young people with Type 2 diabetes should have access to expert treatment by healthcare professionals trained to manage and research the condition and the challenges it presents.”
For more information please visit our Food Upfront campaign where we're calling on the government to make clear and consistent food labelling compulsory on all packaged foods and restaurants across the UK.