The number of people aged under 40 with type 2 diabetes has jumped by almost a quarter, with the effects of the pandemic lockdowns likely to be partly to blame, according to an analysis by the charity Diabetes UK.
The number of people aged under 40 with a clinical diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in the UK has risen to 148,000, a 23% increase from 2017 figures, the charity warned. More than 3.78 million people in the UK have the condition.
There are many risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including genetics, ethnicity, obesity and family history.
However, the charity highlighted the disruption to lifestyles caused by the Covid lockdowns as potentially also being a factor, because of the effect it had on people’s habits, nutritional status and exercise.
A survey of 5,764 people published in August revealed the lifestyle-related changes people with diabetes undertook during the UK’s first lockdown.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes reported worse sleep quality and greater consumption of convenience and sugary foods than those with type 1 diabetes.
However, people with type 2 diabetes also consumed more fresh food and drank less alcohol than the respondents with type 1.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include feeling tired during the day, often constant hunger, and urinating more often than normal. If left untreated, the condition can cause complications such as stroke, kidney failure and heart disease.
Chris Askew, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “If you’re under 40, you’re not immune to type 2 diabetes. It is vital that you check your risk now and that individuals, no matter what their age or background, are given the opportunity to access support to reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes.”
The warning comes against the backdrop of worries the government may be backtracking on commitments to improving public health, with then health secretary Thérèse Coffey in September reportedly ditching plans to publish a long-awaited white paper on health inequalities.