The number of people under 20 with type 2 diabetes in the United States could increase by nearly 675% by 2060 if trends continue, researchers say, with an increase of up to 65% among young people with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes – in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin – is more common among young people in the United States, but type 2 – in which the body does not use insulin as it should – has “significantly increased” in this age group over the past two decades, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new study, published this month in the American Diabetes Association’s journal Diabetes Care, used data from the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth study, funded by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers found that if 2017 incidence rates were to remain unchanged over the next few decades, the number of young people with either type of diabetes would increase by 12%, from 213,000 to 239,000. However, if the incidence continues to increase as rapidly as between 2002 and 2017, up to 526,000 young people could have diabetes by 2060.
Researchers say black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Native American/Alaska Native youth are likely to have a higher burden of type 2 diabetes than white people.
The marked increase in expected type 2 diabetes rates could have several causes, including rising rates of childhood obesity and the presence of diabetes in people of childbearing age, according to the CDC.
People with diabetes are at risk for complications, including nerve damage, vision and hearing problems, kidney disease, heart disease and premature death. The disease can worsen faster in young people than in adults, requiring earlier medical attention, the researchers note. This in turn could increase the demand on US health care systems and lead to higher health care costs.
“This new research should serve as a wake-up call for all of us. It is vital that we focus our efforts to ensure that all Americans, especially our young people, are as healthy as possible,” Dr. Debra Houry, CDC acting senior deputy director, said in a statement.
Christopher Holliday, director of the agency’s Diabetes Translation Division, called the results “alarming”.
“This study’s startling projections of the rise in type 2 diabetes show why it’s crucial to advance health equity and reduce the widespread disparities that already plague people’s health,” he said. he said in a statement.