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The links between anti-psychotics and type 2 diabetes in young people

Project summary

The use of antipsychotics in children has increased dramatically in recent decades. In adults, these drugs are linked with a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But we don’t know how they affect type 2 risk in children and young people. Dr Lau will study NHS medical records from those treated with antipsychotics and will search for risk factors of type 2 in this group. This could give us better ways to help prevent type 2 diabetes in children who take antipsychotics.

Background to research

Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat mental health conditions. Over recent decades they’ve been prescribed more and more to children. 

In adults, antipsychotics have been linked to weight gain and insulin resistance, and previous studies have found adults taking these drugs have a 2-3-fold greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

This has led to concerns about the potential increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes among children and young people who are prescribed them. 

But until now there has been no long-term investigation into the risk of type 2 diabetes in later life among children treated with antipsychotics

Research aims

Using NHS data from more than 60 million people, Dr Lau will identify children who were newly prescribed antipsychotics between 1990-2017. She will then find out the incidence of type 2 diabetes in this group, looking at who developed the condition for up to 33 years after children were first prescribed antipsychotics.  

She’ll then look to identify factors that may increase their risk of developing type 2 by comparing how risk differs among young people taking different types of antipsychotics and for different amounts of time. She’ll also look at how characteristics such as sex, ethnicity, other health conditions, family history of diabetes and use of other medications affects risk.  

All this information will help Dr Lau to develop guidance for healthcare professionals and young people who take antipsychotics to help them avoid type 2 diabetes. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This study will give us the most detailed understanding to date of the incidence and risk factors of type 2 diabetes in children and young people treated with antipsychotics.  

This will help healthcare professionals to give better advice and support to children who take antipsychotics and their families, to help them lower their risk and avoid type 2 diabetes in the future.  

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