Type 2 diabetes in under 25s soars 60% in ‘extremely worrying’ obesity reminder

A huge rise in young type 2 diabetics under treatment has led to calls for more support to tackle childhood obesity.

A 60% increase in people under 25 being treated at dedicated paediatric diabetes facilities was recorded in England and Wales over five years.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said the figures show a rise in young people being treated for the preventable condition, which it described as “extremely worrying”.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, said it is a “sobering reminder” that more needs to be done to achieve the Government’s aim of halving the number of children with obesity by the end of the decade.

Diabetes UK said childhood obesity is the “main driver” behind the rise in cases and described the figures as a “worrying wake-up call”.

According to the latest figures from the national paediatric diabetes audit, there were 866 under-25s reported to have received treatment for type 2 diabetes from paediatric diabetes units in England and Wales in 2019/20, an increase of 9.6% on the year before and around 60% on the 2014/15 figure of 322.

The figures, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, show just over 84% of those young people treated for type 2 diabetes in 2019/20 were registered as obese, broadly in line with previous years.

The audit says the incidence rate of Type 2 diabetes in young people “cannot be accurately calculated” from the data as it does not include those treated in primary care.

However, the LGA said the absence of those young people being treated in primary care in the figure suggests the number with type 2 diabetes is likely to be even higher.

Figures from the national diabetes audit’s first report on young people with type 2 diabetes, published by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and NHS England, which also covers 2019/20, shows the number of young people with the condition is even higher.

The audit says that in 2019/20 there were 1,560 people under the age of 19 known to have type 2 diabetes in England.

The LGA is calling on the Government to use the upcoming spending review to increase investment in councils’ public health budgets and to kickstart efforts to tackle childhood obesity following the pandemic.

The group said that in particular it wants to see increased investment in community sports and leisure facilities, along with greater long-term funding for local authority weight management services and healthy schools initiatives.

Councillor David Fothergill, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Childhood obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges we face, which has been made all the more urgent by Covid-19 and the extra risk to those who are overweight and obese.

“It is extremely worrying that we are seeing more young people develop Type 2 diabetes, a preventable condition which is rare in children and more typically develops in adults over the age of 40.

“These figures are yet another sobering reminder that there is much more to do to reach the Government’s bold ambition of halving the number of children with obesity by the end of the decade.”

Nikki Joule, policy manager at Diabetes UK, said: “Type 2 diabetes is no longer just a condition found in older people; it can affect any age.

“We also know that type 2 diabetes is likely to have more severe and acute consequences, if they develop it as children – especially if they do not have access to the right specialist treatment and support.

“Childhood obesity is the main driver behind the rise in cases. Yet, while promising commitments have been made to tackle this issue, these figures are a worrying wake-up call for us all that we need to do far more to ensure children and young people are not further exposed to unhealthy food and are supported to manage their weight, when needed.”